The US president has warned Israel not to make the same “mistakes” it did in the aftermath of 9/11 amid its conflict in Gaza. Speaking at a press conference in Tel Aviv on 18 October, Biden told reporters that the US stands by Israel, but cautioned them as their conflict with Gaza escalates.
“But I caution this: While you feel that rage, don’t be consumed by it. After 9/11, we were enraged in the United States. And while we sought justice and got justice, we also made mistakes.” [White House]
The president’s speech comes after Israel launched a series of missel strikes on the Gaza Strip, in response to the kidnappings and 1,400 deaths of Israeli citizens by the Islamist militant group in Gaza, Hamas, on October 7. Hamas’ continued attacks have resulted in over six thousand casualties, latest figures from the UN suggest. [OCHA]
Israel has a population of just over nine million, making the number of casualties proportionately higher than the terror attacks of September 11 2001. These casualties and the aftermath of 10/7 attacks are comparable America’s response to 9/11, as Biden’s speech suggests.
A month after the September 11 terror attacks, 136 countries offered military support for America to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda and American units had “destroyed 11 terrorist training camps and 39 Taliban command and control sites”, according to US Department of State records. [2001-2009.state.gov]
Bush continued his attacks into Iraq from 2002, claiming the nation continued to have ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations and had access to weapons of mass destruction. [White House Archives]
It is estimated that America’s intervention in Iraq led to over one hundred and fifty thousand civilian deaths, according to records from the World Health Organisation and the Iraqi government. [WHO]
Likewise, Israel’s retaliation on the Gaza Strip has resulted in a higher number of casualties: the same figures from the UN also show that Israel’s assault has led to 16,285 Palestinian victims.
A poll from Gallup showed that a majority of Americans supported military action in Iraq after the September 11 attacks. But it is unclear that Israeli citizens will back their prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as his administration attempts to stomp out Hamas through continued strikes on Gaza.
Former Israeli president Ehud Barak said that he doubts Israeli citizens trust president Netanyahu after the attacks, “I don’t believe that the people trust Netanyahu to lead when he is under the burden of such a devastating event that just happened under his term.” [The Guardian]
Yet, the Middle East analyst for The Times of Israel, Avi Issacharoff, told the news outlet that the lack of a ground assault could see the fall of the current Israeli government.
“It’s the 9/11 [for Israel], and if this doesn’t go into a major ground operation, it’s the end of this government’s political life”.
The military action taken by Israel and America on Gaza and Iraq, respectively, has increased the presence of jihadist fighters. Dr. Ofer Israeli, lecturer of foreign policy decision-making and strategy at the Lauder School of Government, provided a study in his book Complex Effects of International Relations: Intended and Unintended Consequences of Intentional Human Actions in Middle East Conflicts that showed America’s conflict in Iraq indirectly led to the rise of the terrorist group Islamic State. [Israeli, 2021, pp. 37–72]
Similarly, the rise of Israel’s attacks on Gaza has led to an increased presence in jihadist militant organisations on the northern Israeli border with Lebanon, with the Lebanese Hezbollah group firing on Israeli armed forces.[CNBC]
At a press briefing with French Prime President Emmanuel Macron, Israeli president, Isaac Herzog, said that he does not want to go into war with the militant group, but warned that Lebanon will pay the price if further attacks continue.
“I think Hezbollah is playing with fire ... And I want to make clear, we are not looking for a confrontation in our northern border with anyone else, we are focused on destroying Hamas infrastructure and bringing our citizens back home, but if Hezbollah will drag us into war, it should be clear that Lebanon will pay the price”. [CNBC]
The two nations, Israel and the US, have also suffered the consequences of empowering jihadist groups before the mass attacks in order to divide opposing nations. The US supported Afghan jihadi fighters against soviet invaders during the 1970s and had purchased textbooks for pupils which promoted the persecution of “soviets and infidels”. [Aljazeera]
Dana Burde, Associate Professor and Director of International Education at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, said that the Taliban used these US funded schoolbooks to indoctrinate young people to attack NATO countries after the 9/11 attacks. [Aljazeera]
Netanyahu had originally told his centre-right party, Likud, that the funding of Hamas would divide the state of Palestine, “Those who want to thwart the possibility of a Palestinian state should support the strengthening of Hamas and the transfer of money to Hamas. This is part of our strategy.” [NYtimes]
But the stakes for Israel are far higher than they were for the US after 9/11: Unlike the US, Israel borders Lebanon, home to the militant group Hezbollah, who are backed financially by Iran and pose an immediate threat to the nation, more so than Hamas. [BBC]
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