A top Israeli commentator, Alan Pinkas, writing in the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz says that US President Joe Biden is taking charge of Israel’s war strategy because he is worried that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will exacerbate the situation to the detriment of larger US interests.

There is no doubt that Biden is standing four-square behind Israel in its war against Hamas. He has sent two aircraft carriers with 2000 men, and has announced a US$ 14 billion military aid package. But at the same time, he has cautioned Netanyahu against breaking the rules of war in the planned ground offensive in Gaza.

“Biden has warned several times that a prolonged ground operation in Gaza, and an eventual reoccupation of the Gaza Strip, may have dire repercussions and would reverberate badly – and not just for Israel,” Pinkas points out.

A top US military expert shared that dim view. The former head of U.S. Central Command, Marine Corps Gen. (Rtd.) Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., told The Washington Post “The violence will be dragged out over a much longer period of time than the Hamas attack, with the Israelis getting bogged down in the messy unpredictability of urban warfare.”

Alan Pinkas points out that policy-makers in Washington had told Congressmen that escalation is what Iran and Hamas want as it would “lure an angry and vengeful Israel into a quagmire and inevitably entangle the Americans.”

Pinkas says that it was not a casual decision on the part of Biden to send a Carrier Strike Force and a 2,000-strong US Marine rapid response force and airlift munitions to Israel. It reflected something much more significant.

“It is a measure of care for an ally – but also disappointment and a certain loss of confidence.”

“First, the United States seems to have concluded that it needs to closely supervise events. Ostensibly, the prime US interest is to prevent the spread of the conflict and contain possible escalation. To that end, it feels that simultaneously with an outpouring of support, it needs to check Israel.”

“ Second, this is a show of no confidence in the quality of Israel’s decision-making and anxiety over the absence of a clear strategy or exit strategy,” Pinkas says.

The Americans have little trust in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he asserts.

“Netanyahu’s egregious bravado, arrogance, manipulations and dismissive attitude toward the United States are a matter of record. His credibility has been particularly tarnished after a year in which he instigated a constitutional coup in Israel – the reason Biden has not yet invited him to the White House,” Pinkas adds.

He points out that the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, had participated “for several hours” in an Israeli cabinet meeting, clearly indicating close American monitoring of Israel’s decision-making process.

Thomas Friedman’s writing in the New York Times takes a similar line. “Biden must realize that Benjamin Netanyahu is unfit to manage this war as a rational player,” he says.

Mutiny in State Department

Biden’s mixed signals on the ongoing violence are fuelling tensions in the State Department, says Huffington Post of the UK.

Officials told HuffPost that Secretary of State Blinken and his most senior advisers are overlooking widespread internal frustration. Some department staff said they feel as if Blinken and his team are uninterested in their own experts’ advice as they focus on supporting Israel’s expanding operation in Gaza.

“There’s basically a mutiny brewing within State at all levels,” one State Department official said.

Trouble in Campuses

Meanwhile, American university campuses continue to be troubled with pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli students and faculty clashing and seeking the dismissal of dissenters from service.

Nearly 5,000 members of the Cornell University academic community demanded the dismissal of Russell Rickford, a Professor of History, who described Hamas’s assault on Israel on October 7 as “exhilarating” and “energizing” because it “challenged the Israeli State’s monopoly of violence.”

A student-initiated petition demanding that Columbia University fire Joseph Massad, a Professor of Middle Eastern studies, had garnered more than 47,000 signatures. Massad had published in The Electronic Intifada, a pro-Palestinian online publication, in which he used terms like “stunning” and “astonishing” to describe the Palestinian resistance’s takeover of several Israeli settler-colonies near the Gaza boundary.

Another petition circulating at Yale University called for the removal of Zareena Grewal, a Professor of American Studies who described Israel as a “murderous, genocidal settler State” and wrote that “Palestinians have every right to resist through armed struggle” in a post-last week on X (formerly Twitter).

That petition had got more than 52,000 signatures.

The petition calling for Grewal’s dismissal says: that she “has unequivocally proven that she has no right being in her current role or in the field of education if she considers war crimes against civilians to be acts of resistance.”

But the Association of American University Professors (AAUP) came out in defence of Grewal and other dissenters. In a statement, AAUP said: “College and university teachers are citizens as well as members of a learned profession. A faculty member’s expression of opinion as a citizen cannot constitute grounds for dismissal unless it clearly demonstrates the faculty member’s unfitness to serve. Extramural utterances rarely bear upon the faculty member’s fitness for continuing service.”

“If an administration charges that a faculty member’s extramural utterances raise grave doubts concerning the professor’s fitness for continuing in service, it is essential, under AAUP-recommended standards, that the professor be afforded a hearing on the record before an elected faculty body in which the burden of proof rests with the administration.”

Even India, America’s best friend in South Asia, has watered down its earlier support for Israel. In a revised statement, the Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said: “Our policy in this regard has been long-standing and consistent. India has always advocated the resumption of direct negotiations toward establishing a sovereign, independent, and viable State of Palestine living within secure and recognized borders, side by side in peace with Israel.”

Case in ICJ

Israel’s doings in Palestine could come up at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) this month. The court had set July 25 as the deadline for submitting written statements on the case, and an October deadline for comments on those statements.

The case before the ICJ will expose Israel’s prolonged illegal policies, the Palestinian Rights Committee’s spokesperson Riyad H. Mansour told a UN forum before October 7.

“The Palestinian people are outraged by the lack of progress in putting an end to their tragedies,” Mansour said pointing out that as per the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the number of Palestinians killed in 2023 (before the October 7 attack and its consequences) had already exceeded the number of those killed in 2022. The dead included 44 children.

“Yet, the Secretary-General in his report on children in armed conflict did not list Israel as a country violating children’s rights,” Mansour pointed out.

“The current Israeli Government is the most extreme rightist Government in the history of the Governments of Israel. It includes fascist ministers considered by the Israeli legal system as promoting terrorism. One such minister, who has advanced a racist manifesto, also announced that his and his family’s right to remain alive is greater than the right of the Palestinian people to circulate in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” Mansour said.

“Gaza had been turned into a huge prison,” he said and added that “the Palestinian people will never surrender, will never raise white flags.”

He warned that many Gazans were already taking issues into their own hands.

Mansour’s delegation is engaged in the preparation of documentation for submission to the International Court of Justice before October 25.