Israel/Gaza: a black scenario for the Biden administration

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06 novembre, 2023
Leslie Varenne

Joe Biden's term in office, which began with the debacle in Kabul, could well end with a widespread conflict in the Middle East. Between the two,  there was Ukraine, where no one would dare bet on a victory for Kiev and its NATO allies. A month after the conflagration started in Gaza, the Democratic administration finds itself in the worst possible configuration. It is caught between its unconditional support for Israel and the anger of the Arab public opinion, which takes it back to the hatred of the United States during the George W. Bush era. "We don't have to choose between defending Israel and helping Palestinian civilians. We can and must do both," said Anthony Blinken. However, the longer the Palestinian enclave is asphyxiated and bombed, the more dangerous this balancing act becomes.


The tree that hides the forest

The attack on October 7 took everyone by surprise. A week earlier, the National Security Advisor Jack Sullivan had uttered the now historic phrase: " The Middle East Region Is Quieter Today Than It Has Been in Two Decades » ". What good sensors and bright situation analysis in a region where the United States is omnipresent. In addition to its numerous military bases and imposing embassies, the Pentagon also hasa secret base in the heart of Israel's Negev desert, just 32 kilometers from Gaza, Intercept reveals. But the military were watching Iran instead of looking at what was in front of them.

Two other major events should not have gone unnoticed.

After 15 years of infighting and protracted negotiations, 14 Palestinian factions were officially reconciled in Algiers in October 2022. Whether Islamic or secular, such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad or the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), these organizations put aside their religious and ideological differences to come together on the sole Palestinian cause. The armed branches of these factions now operate on the Gaza front.

The other highlight was the World Cup in Doha, where the Palestinian cause was so massively present in the stands that some newspapers ran the headline: "Palestine won the World Cup". (see IVERIS article). How could it be believed that this struggle had become obsolete and invisible? How could it be believedthat the thousands of prisoners in Israeli jails, the embargo on Gaza and the colonization of the West Bank could go on indefinitely?

American blindness has been such that it nevertheless made the Abraham Accords its priority in the Middle East. These agreements, initiated under Donald Trump's mandate - signed by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, and rejected by both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas - are based on the assumption that the Palestinian cause was definitively buried.

And yet, although this normalization with Israel is partly responsible for the current explosion, American diplomats surprisingly remain stubborn and are increasing the pressure on Mohamed Ben Salmane to sign an agreement with Israel.

The headless chicken strategy

Since October 7, the White House has been pursuing an even more erratic policy that shows just how helpless it is. A week after the start of the conflict, the Secretary of State visited Egypt and Jordan with, as former UN special envoy to Libya Ghassam Salamé told on France Inter, "the crazy idea of settling the Palestinians in Sinai". In reality, the plan was to transfer the Gazans to Egypt and the West Bankers to Jordan. Organize a second Nakba, as in 1948, with permanent tents? According to a Lebanese source close to the file, Marshal Sissi hesitated for a while given the tempting promises made to him, but the army categorically refused. King Abdullah was no more enthusiastic.

The whole of American strategy follows suit. On the one hand, American leaders tirelessly repeat the mantra: "Israel has the right to defend itself"; the White House sends two aircraft carriers to the Mediterranean; the Pentagon supplies weapons, drawing no red lines as to their use; Congress votes $14 billion in aid to Tel Aviv. And on the other hand, American leaders ask Benjamin Netanyahu to protect civilians. And 10 days after putting a veto to a Security Council resolution calling for a humanitarian pause, Anthony Blinken asked Tel Aviv for... a humanitarian pause! He hoped to secure the release of hostages holding American passports. Tsahal responded by increasing its bombing. Joe Biden's calls for an end to settlement activity and repression in the West Bank received a similar response. As a result, the Secretary of State left his second trip to the region empty-handed.

The anger of the world      

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been going on for 75 years, which means that around 98% of the planet's inhabitants were born with this crisis, and the Arab world carries it in its genes. As of November 5, according to Hamas, the Israeli bombings have killed 9,488 people, including 3,900 children, and wounded more than 25,000.      

For the region’s public opinion , this unconditional support for Israel makes Washington an accomplice in this macabre tally. This brings us back to the period of the Iraq war, Guantanamo, Afghanistan, before Obama and his famous speech in Cairo...

Throughout the Arab and Muslim world, from Egypt to Indonesia, the demonstrations of support for the Palestinians are impressive. Editorialists were particularly moved by the demonstrations in Turkey, accompanied by Recep Tayyip Erdogan's harsh words against Israel. But the Turkish president speaks a lot, acts little, keeps his troops in line and is not about to leave NATO. On the other hand, attention should be paid to the even more massive rallies in Pakistan, a country of 250 million Muslims.

In Africa, the Maghreb is up in arms, including in Morocco, which signed the Abraham Accords. In the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, despite the many evangelicals who, for biblical reasons, venerate Israel, empathy is mainly with the Palestinians. An Ivorian member of this community explains, "Our churches ask us to support the Israelis, but many of us see it as a political matter.  In any case, between our religion and colonized people, our solidarity lies with the latter".  

In South America, protest is taking another form, with Bolivia breaking off diplomatic relations, and Colombia, Honduras and Argentina which have recalled their ambassadors from Tel Aviv.

The United States also faces its own internal divisions, notably within the Democrats, and its woke and decolonialist youth. They are also facing a row from their own administration, the UN and NGOs (1-2-3). It has to be underlined that the death toll of 88 UN employees and 36 journalists in such a short space of time is unprecedented. The appalling siege of Gaza and the bombing of civilians  and essential infrastructure also call into question the international law that these organizations are supposed to defend.
This double standard on the part of the United States, compared to its position in other conflicts, which weakens the West, also weakens the edifice of multilateral organizations in an unprecedented way.

Zero score

On the eve of the presidential campaign, Joe Biden's foreign policy record is a disaster.  The facts are implacable. The United States has alienated a large part of the Arab andMuslim world, along with its Western allies, and the rest of the so-called countries of the South are scarcely more benevolent. And yet, their strategy was precisely to win back this "global South" in order to gain leverage in their confrontation with China. A failure.

The Ukrainian defeat is about to be recorded. Responsibility for it must be taken, all the more that this war has strengthened the Kremlin militarily and deprived NATO allies of their weapons. At the same time, sanctions against Russia have considerably weakened the economies of European Union countries, while the Moscow/Beijing/Tehran axis has grown stronger.

In his speech on November 4, Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah made it clear that the White House's much-feared expansion into a regional war was correlated with the continuation of hostilities in Palestine. In that case, with which allies will the Americans be able to face all fronts? They are on the front line, and alone. Europe is divided and atonic, with no voice left in its camp.  Arab leaders, close to Washington, will not be able to join a coalition in the face of their peoples' anger.

American bases in Syria and Iraq are already under regular attack. On the Red Sea, Yemen's Houthis have declared war on Israel by firing missiles at Eilat, and neighboring Sudan is also under fire.

This conflict is another obvious American failure. While international mediation under their aegis was supposed to bring back democracy, it created the conditions for an explosion. The consequences, here too, are catastrophic: six million displaced persons, one million refugees in neighboring countries, and thousands of deaths, impossible to count in such a chaotic situation.

In the Middle East, the more the hours go by, the more the situation deteriorates. If the United States doesn't bring about a ceasefire in Gaza quickly and finds a political way out, the situation will inevitably flare up. They will be bogged down in a region they thought they had left behind them in order to focus their energy and resources on China. Yet another failure

Leslie Varenne

(3) In a rather unprecedented way, the entire humanitarian community signed a press release calling for a ceasefire


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