WP: Biden’s support of Israel could come at a cost to U.S. foreign policy

9:31 19.12.2023 •

Netanyahu meets Biden at the airport.
Photo: The New York Times

When President Biden cautioned Israel this week that it was losing international support due to the war in Gaza, he could just as well have been warning that his own administration also has a lot to lose, notes ‘The Washington Post’.

Elected three years ago as the self-described most experienced foreign policy president in history, Biden promised to reclaim the mantle of global leadership as “a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress and security.” Following the isolationist Trump years, he proclaimed, “America is back.”

There have been ups and downs since then, from the Afghanistan withdrawal fiasco to the return to primacy at NATO, a successful mobilization of aid for Ukraine and a jittery coexistence with China.

Now, there is acknowledgment within Biden’s administration that his unwavering support for Israel’s right to destroy Hamas — even as he acknowledges Israeli excesses and presses the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be more protective of innocent Palestinian lives — could impose a price on the president’s standing at home and abroad.

“Diplomatic cost can be an intangible thing,” a senior administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. “On balance, you want countries to look favorably on the United States, to be willing to support it, to want to cooperate.” But “when public opinion in so many countries is hostile, it makes it harder to win support on issues we care about.”

The most obvious isolation is in international forums such as the United Nations, where the United States has been virtually alone in opposing Security Council resolutions calling for a cease-fire in Gaza. This week, as the 193-member General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a similar measure, the administration was joined by just nine other countries — including only Czechia among NATO members — in voting no.

In its efforts to woo the Global South away from Moscow and China, Washington has called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a colonial war of aggression. Yet for many, Israel’s war on Gaza looks virtually the same. “Israel was attacked, and it has a right to self-defense,” Ivo Daalder, president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and a former U.S. ambassador to NATO said. “But it is doing so in a territory it occupies, and which the entire world thinks is occupied territory. On the one hand, we’re trying to get other countries to oppose what Russia is doing in Ukraine, while on the other hand we’re trying to have them support what Israel is doing in Gaza.”

“It makes the argument harder to maintain,” he said.

“Even war has rules,” said U.N. General Assembly President Dennis Francis, of Trinidad and Tobago, in opening this week’s session on a cease-fire resolution, “and it is imperative that we prevent any deviation from these principles and values, the validity of which resides in their universal application.”

Some of the harshest words have come from close U.S. partners in the Middle East. It was “a despicable sign of double standards,” Egypt’s U.N. Ambassador Osama Abdelkhalek told the assembly, when those who call for ending aggression and occupation and “for respecting international humanitarian law in specific cases… unfortunately and shamelessly, they turn their backs on … other situations, especially when concerning Palestinians.”

key partners in the region are deeply unhappy, potentially scuttling a path forward.

Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi of Jordan, a critical ally in Washington’s goal of building a long-term peace between Israelis and Palestinians, has been among the most publicly outspoken. “How could anybody talk about the future of Gaza when we do not know what kind of Gaza will be left once this aggression is over?” Safadi told a recent conference in Bahrain.

Biden warned that Israel was “starting to lose [international] support by the indiscriminate bombing that takes place,” and intimated that a change in Netanyahu’s extreme right-wing government might prove the answer.

The president’s comments brought a flood of questions as to whether Biden was accusing Israel of war crimes, or perhaps misspoke.

“I don’t think Biden made a mistake,” Daalder said. “I think he believes this… He’s been quite clear that he is absolutely fed up with the Israeli government.”

Biden pledged during his campaign to reopen the U.S. consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem and the Palestinian Liberation Office in Washington, both closed by President Donald Trump, and to reverse the former president’s rejection of a U.S. legal opinion on the illegality of West Bank settlements. Biden has done none of those things, concludes ‘The Washington Post’.

The survey, conducted by Harvard-Harris polling, found 50% of Americans age 18-24 said they sided with Hamas.

More than four out of five Americans said they stood with Israel over Hamas — among those 18-24 the result was a dead even 50-50.

51% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 said they believed the long-term answer to the Israel-Palestinian conflict was for “Israel to be ended and given to Hamas and the Palestinians.”

Only 32% said they believed in a two-state solution, and just 17% said other Arab states should be asked to absorb Palestinian populations.

The figure was in stark contrast to other age groups, which all dramatically preferred a two-state solution. Just 4% of Americans 65 and over said they felt Israel should be ended.

The findings confirm earlier studies showing young Americans were among the most pro-Hamas.

The Harvard-Harris poll was conducted between Dec 13-14 among 2,034 registered voters.


read more in our Telegram-channel https://t.me/The_International_Affairs