View From India | What’s America’s policy towards Israel-Palestine?

Updated - November 07, 2023 11:15 am IST

Published - November 06, 2023 05:50 pm IST

(This article forms a part of the View From India newsletter curated by The Hindu’s foreign affairs experts. To get the newsletter in your inbox every Monday, subscribe here.)

As Israel’s Gaza attack is nearing a month, which has flattened Gaza’s high buildings and left piles of bodies in the besieged enclave, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a second trip to West Asia since the war began on October 7. Mr. Blinken’s main focus is not on bringing the war to an end, but to prevent it from escalating into a regional conflict. Israel’s 30 days of bombing and ground attacks have killed some 9,700 Palestinians in Gaza alone, a vast majority of them women and children, triggering massive protests across the Arab world. Bahrain, one of the Abraham Accords countries, and Turkey have recalled their ambassadors from Israel, while Egypt and Jordan have repeatedly called for a ceasefire. Israel’s border with Lebanon has remained tense with continued exchange of fire between the IDF and Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese Shia militia which has close ties with Iran. Mr. Blinken’s visit came immediately after Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, made a televised speech, saying his group was “prepared for all options”. Ever since Israel launched its attacks on Gaza, after Hamas carried out a cross-border raid in Israel killing at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians, on October 7, there were speculations that the war could spill over into other parts of the region if Hezbollah opened a second front or Israel carried out a pre-emptive strike on the Shia group.

In West Asia, Mr. Blinken met Arab Foreign Ministers and then travelled to the Israeli occupied West Bank where he met Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas. Mr. Blinken had earlier suggested that the PA, which has limited powers in the West Bank, should take control of Gaza, which has been ruled by Hamas since 2007. The U.S. State Secretary also spoke against the “forceful displacement” of Gazans and violence in the West Bank. Israel had earlier ordered over 1 million Gazans to move south while it was bombing the whole of the enclave. In the West Bank, over 150 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli forces and Jewish settlers since October 7. While Mr. Blinken sought Arab support to limit the scope of the war and expressed support for humanitarian aid to be let into Gaza, he stopped short of calling for a ceasefire. Israel has carried out relentless bombing of the enclave targeting even refugee camps, schools and ambulances, which expressed sharp reactions from UN agencies and the Secretary General, but most western governments have been wary of calling for a ceasefire. Instead, they call for a humanitarian pause. 

In the case of the U.S., its policy towards Israel lies in sharp contrast with its policy towards Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. The U.S. has mobilised western countries to form a broad anti-Russia coalition which supported Ukraine with financial and military assistance while also imposing sanctions on Russia. But in the case of Israel’s occupation and bombardment of the Palestinian territories, where the civilian toll is many times higher, the U.S. has continued to support “Israel’s right to defend itself”, a position Mr. Blinken repeated in West Asia. Why the U.S. always supports Israel? This explainer looks into the deep relationship between the U.S. and Israel and how an institutional consensus was formed in Washington on its unconditional support for the Jewish state. Among the several factors that drive this “special relationship” is the powerful pro-Israel lobby in America. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is the most powerful pro-Israel lobby in the U.S. Here, G. Sampath profiles AIPAC and its growing influence in U.S. politics.

The Top Five

1. The Israel-Palestine conflict is at bend point

It is important for India to take a stand not only against terrorism but also more forcefully against the human tragedy playing out in Gaza, writes T.S. Tirumurti, India’s former Permanent Representative at the UN.

2. The silent annexation of West Bank

As Palestinians in Gaza face genocide, the silent annexation of the West Bank receives less attention, writes Shubhda Chaudhary.

3. The revenge of old West Asia

Hamas’s October 7 attacks shatter the foundations of the ‘new Middle East’; the Palestine question remains the source of all maladies in the region, writes Stanly Johny.

4. Is the United Nations toothless in ending wars?

Ever since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, the Israeli Defense Forces have been relentlessly bombing civilian locations across the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, the Russia-Ukraine conflict is still ongoing. These two conflicts have in recent times led to more questions about the inability of the United Nations in bringing about peace. Rakesh Sood and Vivek Katju discuss the question in a conversation moderated by Kallol Bhattacherjee.

5. Saima Wazed | Rise of the daughter

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s daughter faced greater scrutiny in the run-up to the election for the post of the WHO’s regional director for South-East Asia, writes Arun Devnath in The Hindu Profiles.

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