Literally less than three hours after the al-Alhi Arab Hospital was struck nearby in Gaza resulting in 800 dead and still counting with more injured, the Biden White House and U.S. Department of Defense officials held a webinar “Briefing for American Jewish Community,” where 3,000 were online.
There was absolutely no recognition or mention of the hospital incident, but the one-way presentation clearly gave a snapshot into how the Biden Administration, in partnership with the Israeli government, is viewing the ever-growing situation on the eve of President Joe Biden’s arrival in the Middle East.
President Biden is expected to visit Israel and then was scheduled onto Jordan.
Biden is expected to get a handshake in Israel, but now has now received a door slammed in his face by Arab leaders.
After the hospital strike, a Senior Palestinian official said President Mahmoud Abbas had canceled his planned meeting Wednesday with President Biden.
That followed Israel claiming that the hospital strike was not the fault of Israel and blamed it on Islamic Jihad.
By the end of Tuesday before Air Force One’s wheels-up to the Mideast, King Abdullah III of Jordan, who was hosting the meeting with Arab leaders, Biden and more global leaders, literally cancelled the entire meeting in Amman.
Since the October 7 Hamas attack, Mark Regev, the former Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom, has forcefully compared Hamas to ISIS and what surfaced in the Biden webinar was the same characterization.
Biden Administration official Shelley Greenspan first introduced Samantha Sutton, the Biden Administration’s Director for Israel Palestinian Affairs.
Sutton stated that the purpose of Biden’s trip to the Mideast is “to stand in solidarity with the people of Israel.”
She outlined President Biden’s agenda.
Greenspan then introduced Department of Defense officials, Dr. Marla Karlin and Dr. Warren Bass, who accompanied Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin when he travelled to Israel following the Oct. 7 attack.
Dr. Karlin is Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategies, Plans, and Capabilities and is responsible for advising Secretary Austin and other senior defense leaders on national security and defense strategy. Karlin has served under six secretaries of defense.
Dr. Bass is a Senior Advisor to Secretary Austin. He is the former Senior Editor of the Wall Street Journal, and now serves as DOD’ Director of Speechwriting for Public Affairs.
“The US governement has been in overdrive” since the Oct. 7 attack as “Biden has been clear to help Israel defend itself,” stated Karlin.
Karlin and Bass had accompanied Secretary of Defense Austin when they recently flew to Brussels to meet with President Zelensky of Ukraine in early October.
According to Karlin, Zelensky gave an “impassioned” plea for help as news arrived about the Hamas attack in Israel where “Zelensky compared the Hamas attacks to Putin,” said Karlin.
Austin and Zelensky were meeting with about 50 country representatives when the news of the Hamas attacks arrived. They were ultimately discussing how to support Zelensky, but the meeting according to Karlin shifted to standing in solidarity with Israel and its right to defend itself.
Following the Brussels meeting, Karlin and Bass flew directly to Tel Aviv with Austin where they met with Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant.
Secretary Austin expressed the U.S. government’s strong support for Israel offering U.S. military assets to limit escalation and assistance to release the hostages, and efforts to build a coalition to oppose Hamas while comparing it to ISIS.
Days later, they flew to Nevatim Israeli Air Force Base where a U.S. C-17 landed filled with ammunition and supplies for Israeli Defense Forces.
This was Austin’s third trip to Israel since his appointment as Biden’s Secretary of Defense.
Warren stated that this was a different trip from the earlier trips.
“The most powerful thing a friend can do is “show up” and express personal condolences and stand in solidarity with families not knowing the fate of their loved ones. There was human dimension of the trip,” said Bass expressing Secy Austin’s sentiments to Gallant upon arrival.
When Greenspan asked what Austin meant comparing Hamas to ISIS, Bass answered bluntly.
“Hamas does not speak for Palestinians and that underscore that any democracy faced with this atrocity must respond when they uphold the laws of war. Hamas deliberately targets civilians. That is not what democracies should do,” said Bass.
“With Zelensky, Hamas struck in a moment of global challenge,” Bass further added.
U.S. security assistance is flowing in “at the speed of war” and is being co-ordinated with Israelis for hostages’ release according to both Marlin and Bass.
Bass made it clear that Secretary Austin and President Biden’s forceful posture is clear - any actor hostile to Israel that escalates the situation further - “DON’T,” said Bass.
Bass reminded the webinar audience that Austin is a “legendary war fighter,” who was in Mosul during the ISIS caliphate crises. He said that Austin feels the same way about Hamas as he did when encountering ISIS because of “the scope and depravity by Hamas - blood thirsting and fanatical - evil.”
Bass reminded the audience that Austin chooses his words precisely.
When Greenspan asked Dr. Karlin what lessons the US and Israel can draw from fighting ISIS who used human shields, Karlin highlighted that Austin “strategically understands how to defeat Hamas operationally,” highlighting parallels to ensure “well-defined objections, creating safe corridors to escape and staying in daily contact” with Israeli Minister of Defense Gallant.
Following the Oct 7 attack, Secretary Austin decided to send two carrier strike groups to the Mideast region. The Ford carrier strike group is the largest in the world.
Austin’s purposeful intention was to send a clear message.
“Deterrence and signaling to anyone who wants to escalate it would be a bad idea,” said Marlin. Sending the USS Eisenhower was to send the message that the U.S. has the “ability to be anywhere in the world,” she added.
The deterrence signaling is to leave no doubt.
Israel is to focus “on Hamas in Gaza and those in the region who may want to escalate this - look at the US deterrence,” Marlin stated firmly.
Marlin noted the strength of seeing one carrier strike force group and the further strength of seeing “two carrier strike groups.”
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