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March 26, 2024 11:12 am
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Vice President Harris Threatened Israel — and Democrats Must Respond

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avatar by Irit Tratt

Opinion

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during an event with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as part of the U.S.-ASEAN Special Summit, in Washington, U.S., May 13, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

Vice President Kamala Harris threatened Israel on Sunday, in a discussion with ABC News Congressional correspondent Rachel Scott. During the interview, Harris said that she has “studied the maps” in Gaza, and warned Israel against conducting a major military operation in Rafah. When pressed on the US response should Israel proceed with its expected military campaign, Harris refused to deny the possibility of US consequences. She said that any major operation in Rafah would be a “huge mistake.”

After the October 7 massacre, the Biden administration said it would unequivocally support Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas, secure the Jewish State, and prevent any such attacks from occurring in the future. But the administration’s suggestion that Israel refrain from destroying the remaining Hamas terror battalions operating in Rafah represents a stunning reorientation of policy.

Despite assurances from Israel’s government that a plan is in place to secure the safety of Palestinian civilians, the overwhelming majority of whom still back Hamas’ actions, Harris’ persistence in undercutting Israel as it tries to eradicate a terrorist network and secure the release of hostages, including five Americans, underscores the schism manufactured by the Vice President between the US and Israel.

Israeli political and military figures from across the political spectrum have stated that in order to defeat Hamas — and make the entire war worth it — Israel must enter Rafah. Prime Minister Netanyahu has reaffirmed Israel’s commitment to launch an offensive in Rafah in the absence of American backing. Some reports indicate that Hamas is regrouping in northern Gaza. Letting Hamas operate freely in the south would endanger the entire war — and indeed Israel’s very security — and risk the gains made by Israel Defense Forces. It also reduces the probability of finding the remaining hostages, some of whom are believed to be held by factions other than Hamas while being kept captive inside Rafah. The IDF’s rescue of two hostages, Fernando Marman and Louis Har, from Rafah in February further confirms the critical role that the city holds in ensuring Israel’s complete victory over Hamas.

Although Harris is often happy to criticize Israel, Egypt — which shares a border with southern Gaza — is almost never urged to do its part in aiding the Palestinian population. Instead, the Vice President’s careful avoidance of mentioning Egypt bolstering its defenses against an influx of Palestinians mirrors administration efforts to extract concessions from Israel while demanding little from our Arab ally, which has received approximately $1.3 billion annually for nearly 50 years.

Indeed, the former California Senator seems to have found her footing as one of the top Democrats dispatched to issue scathing anti-Israel statements. Earlier this month, while speaking at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, Harris called for an “immediate ceasefire” while rebuking, with palpable emotion, the Jewish state’s alleged failure to stem the “humanitarian catastrophe” within the Gaza Strip.

The Vice President’s speech proceeds her repugnant behavior at George Mason University back in 2021, after a student falsely claimed that Israel is guilty of “ethnic genocide and displacement of people.” Lacking the sophistication or wisdom once expected of a sitting Vice President, Harris answered by nodding along agreeably, while proclaiming that “your truth cannot be suppressed.” 

And the problem doesn’t seem limited to Harris herself. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre — who previously served as Harris’ chief of staff — has made troubling comments about Israel, and also downplayed antisemitism in the United States.

The administration’s abstention from Monday’s United Nations Security Council resolution demanding an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza is evidence that Harris’ admonishments of Israel align with the administration’s intensification of creating more daylight between the US and the Jewish state. For their part, Jewish organizations and Democrats have stayed largely quiet on the government’s dangerous pivot against Israel. At a time when the Jewish nation is fighting for its very survival, and with the majority of the anti-Israel animus emanating from the political left, it will soon be increasingly difficult for groups claiming to uphold Jewish interests to ignore the damaging and hostile anti-Israel hits such as those espoused by Harris. Legacy Jewish institutions have preferred to remain on the sidelines when faced with hostility from the left, choosing to buffer any disappointment in Democrats’ Israel stance with a passionate defense of past pro-Israel policies.

To date, Harris’ targeting of Israel during her ABC interview appears to have gone unnoticed by Congressional Democrats. Yet, in fairness, if Jewish Americans expect statements of solidarity from lawmakers, our Jewish leaders must start by acting far less charitably towards politicians like Harris, and begin governing with the moral clarity that our current climate warrants.

The tenor of August’s Democratic National Convention will grant Americans an opportunity to determine whether Harris, whose term has been punctuated with an expanding proclivity for showmanship over a deepening appreciation for knowledge, will use the platform to smear Israel further, or if Democrats outside the White House will finally find the courage and blunt the Vice President’s criticism of Israel.

Irit Tratt is an independent writer residing in New York. Follow her on X @Irit_Tratt

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