An estimated 570,000 people in the Gaza Strip are now starving. Three-quarters of the territory’s 36 hospitals are closed. The remaining nine, all in southern Gaza, are “partially functional.” The shuttered hospitals in the north are serving as impromptu shelters for some of the 85 percent of Palestinians in Gaza who have been displaced, but did not trek south to escape the ravages of Israel’s ground invasion. Beyond an estimated death toll of 20,000, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health, a devastating 355,000 are suffering from infectious diseases as conditions in the territory worsen.
Amid all of this suffering, President Joe Biden delayed a United Nations vote for humanitarian aid to Gaza at least eight times, watering it down until he felt satisfied enough to not veto it.
The vote is on a U.N. Security Council proposal, put forward by the United Arab Emirates and repeatedly whittled down just for Biden, that calls for limiting the hostilities in Gaza and expanding aid distribution. Officials reportedly crafted the resolution in such a way that it would be “tolerable” enough for the Biden administration to avoid a veto. The U.S. has long been Israel’s guarantor at the Security Council, using its veto as a permanent member of the council to block almost every measure critical of Israel.
For Biden, the preemptive concessions were not enough, and he continued to delay the UAE resolution. The main sticking points for Biden were the resolution’s use of the word “cessation” in a call to end fighting and on allowing an independent inspection of aid going into Gaza, rather than the Israel-administered checks that have slowed aid shipments to a crawl.
As negotiations edged into Thursday evening, the vote was kicked once again, to Friday — but not without reward for Biden. He was able to force out language that does not establish a mechanism for U.N. inspection of aid, nor call for the “suspension of hostilities.”
On Friday, the fateful vote was finally held — after the U.S. first vetoed a Russian amendment to restore the resolution’s originally stronger language for a “suspension.” Indeed, the 15 member nations instead voted on a resolution calling for “the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities.” The resolution passed, 13-0-2. Russia abstained out of frustration. The United States abstained, even after getting what it wanted.
Nevertheless, U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield delivered remarks celebrating the passage, as if she hadn’t just voted to abstain from the resolution on behalf of Biden. [Continue reading…]
Biden has met every Israeli prime minister over more than half a century in elected office, starting with Golda Meir in 1973. As they were posing for a photo after their meeting, Biden often recalls, she whispered to him that Israel had a “secret weapon” to protect them — “we have no place else to go”.
Less well known is an anecdote related by prime minister Menachem Begin, who in 1982 was grilled by the Senate foreign relations committee in Washington about Israel’s allegedly disproportionate use of force in Lebanon.
The Times of Israel reported in 2020: “‘A young senator rose and delivered a very impassioned speech – I must say that it’s been a while since I’ve heard such a talented speaker – and he actually supported Operation Peace for the Galilee,” Begin told Israeli reporters after he returned to Jerusalem.
“The senator – Biden – said he would go even further than Israel, adding that he’d forcefully fend off anyone who sought to invade his country, even if that meant killing women or children.
“I disassociated myself from these remarks,” Begin said. “I said to him: ‘No, sir; attention must be paid. According to our values, it is forbidden to hurt women and children, even in war … sometimes there are casualties among the civilian population as well. But it is forbidden to aspire to this. This is a yardstick of human civilization, not to hurt civilians.’”
From 1990 to the present, Biden was the Senate’s biggest ever recipient of donations from pro-Israeli groups with more than $4m, according to the Open Secrets database, well ahead of fellow Democrats Robert Menendez and Hillary Clinton at just under $2.5m each. In the aftermath of the 7 October attacks, all his empathy was on display and he has since urged Congress to send Israel $14bn in military aid. [Continue reading…]