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Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.


A horrific strike on a tent encampment in Rafah on Sunday killed at least 45, including women and children, some of whom were burned alive, according to the Hamas-run Gazan health ministry. The deaths may indeed have been the result of a "tragic accident," as claimed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But that won't lessen the growing global condemnation of Israel's conduct in Gaza, which risks further emboldening enemies and alienating allies.

The intensifying international pressure makes Jerusalem's relationship with Washington even more essential to Israel. But it's difficult to discern whether Netanyahu truly values all that President Joe Biden has done for his country — even at the risk of losing his own office due to the fury from many in his political coalition accusing the U.S. of complicity in incidents like Sunday's carnage, all while Republicans accuse him of abandoning Israel.

So it's important to set the record straight on these essential truths: Biden has in fact been extraordinarily supportive of Israel. In fact, according to a recent commentary published by Foreign Policy magazine, "Without exception, [Biden] has been more supportive of Israel and Israeli war aims than any other president in U.S. history," wrote Daniel Kurtzer, former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt, and Aaron David Miller, a former U.S. diplomat who like Kurtzer served both Republican and Democratic administrations.

This support should respect and reflect America's — let alone Israel's — values.

Yet these values are diverging, according to many observers, including Dahlia Scheindlin, a policy fellow at Century International, an Israeli-based think tank. In a compelling commentary for Foreign Affairs magazine published last week, Scheindlin asks this essential question: "Can America's special relationship with Israel survive?" Because the war in Gaza, she posits, "has accelerated the social and political forces driving the countries apart."

It's driving this country apart, too. A "growing partisan divide," Scheindlin writes, has resulted in scores of Republicans excoriating Biden on Israel. That culminated in a Knesset caucus meeting in which Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., denounced the U.S. president to fellow right-wing lawmakers in Israel — a disgraceful act by Stefanik, striving to be GOP nominee Donald Trump's running mate, as well as by members of Netanyahu's Cabinet, openly interfering in the U.S. election in an attempt to defeat the president who has helped keep Israel from defeat by an array of hostile forces.

And make no mistake about Biden's resolve, Scheindlin said from Tel Aviv in an email interview with an editorial writer. "The idea that Biden has abandoned Israel is so ungrounded as to verge on disinformation," she said. "U.S. support during this war has been overwhelming in terms of financial, military and political support. In addition to massive additional foreign aid and weapons shipments, the U.S. has defanged every international measure seeking to constrain Israel."

It "is this combined three-pronged U.S. support that has allowed the war to continue unrestrained for nearly eight months," continued Scheindlin. "For the very limited areas of disagreement the U.S. has had with Israel, mostly regarding the need for humanitarian aid/civilian protection, the U.S. relied almost entirely on persuasion, which was not successful enough. Suspending these arms is the first significant attempt to take action to constrain one aspect of one operation in the overall war and, as you can see, it has not prevented the operation in Rafah at all, let alone any other aspects of the ongoing war. Given the ICJ [International Court of Justice] and ICC [International Criminal Court] developments, one might even say delaying these arms, which would do even more tremendous civilian damage, is helping to save Israel from itself."

Scheindlin was referring to recent international institutions weighing in on Israel's wartime actions, including the ICJ ordering it to "immediately halt" its Rafah offensive as well as the ICC's chief prosecutor applying for arrest warrants for Netanyahu, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and three top leaders of Hamas, the terrorist group that is ultimately responsible for all the death and destruction in Israel and in Gaza. She was also referencing Biden withholding some heavy armaments that might inflict maximum damage in teeming Gaza. Most notably, Biden has proactively supplied Israel with the defensive weapons that were so effective against the recent missile and drone barrage from Iran as well as more tactical weapons deployed in Gaza.

The Biden administration "continues to pretty much be a full-throated supporter of Israel," Stephen Hadley, a veteran of several Republican administrations, including as national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration, told an editorial writer. Hadley, the most recent speaker in the "Conservative Voices at the Humphrey School Presents" series, added that "the kind of weapons they've withheld, I don't think have been that significant. Certainly, they have not impaired Israel's ability to defend itself against its attackers."

Indeed, Israel has shown its defensive capabilities — militarily. Diplomatically, however, Israel is besieged by worldwide condemnation and increasing isolation, including from fellow democracies like Spain, Ireland and Norway, which last week announced they would become just the latest nations to formally recognize a Palestinian state.

Sunday's tragedy will likely result in more actions from nations and international institutions. As always, Jerusalem will have in Washington a friend defending it. But like a true friend, America should level with Israel and not further enable a failing strategy. And if Republican politicians are the true friends of Israel they claim to be, they will stop trying to score election-year political points and instead point Israel in a better direction, too.