How Biden boxed himself in on Gaza

How Biden boxed himself in on Gaza

Jonathan Guyer writes:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a knack for making world leaders do the jobs of their subordinates. President Joe Biden had to call Netanyahu himself in October—in the first weeks of Israel’s brutal assault on the occupied territory of Gaza in retaliation for the Hamas attacks of October 7—to urge that Israel allow more than 100 trucks of relief aid a day into Gaza. Normally, that’s a task a low-level economic officer at the embassy might handle.

Five months later, the situation has only gotten more humiliating, with Palestinians suffering from an Israeli-sponsored famine. In mid-February, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan was expressing desperation that flour paid for by U.S. taxpayers reach Palestinians in Gaza. USAID Administrator Samantha Power was visiting stockpiles of humanitarian assistance in Jordan that were also held up. Then the Biden administration floated the idea of air-dropping aid into Gaza, a tactic of colossal expense and little value when Israel could just speed inspections and open up more entry points.

The next day, Israeli troops launched what became known as the “flour massacre,” opening fire on Palestinians in Gaza waiting in a bread line, killing over 100 people and injuring hundreds more. The U.S. went ahead with the airdrop. Now the administration is planning to build a makeshift port near Gaza City to prevent Israeli forces from stopping U.S. aid with U.S.-made weapons.

The U.S. looks powerless. Biden initially warned Israel not to perpetuate the mistakes the U.S. made after the September 11 attacks. “While you feel that rage, don’t be consumed by it,” he said to Israelis in October, though now Israel very much has done that and has not faced consequences. If nothing changes, the destruction of Palestine will be a major piece of Biden’s legacy.

Since October 7, the Biden administration has not applied pressure on Netanyahu to stop a widespread humanitarian crisis, but rather has transferred more weapons (often sidestepping Congress to do so), used its veto power at the United Nations to shield Israel from resolutions in support of a cease-fire, and played the role of technocratic fixer, trying to distribute aid that Israel is obligated under international law to provide to Palestinian civilians. [Continue reading…]

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