Policy mismatch: On the U.S. and Israel policy  

The U.S. must not arm Israel while asking it to halt Gaza strikes 

Updated - May 04, 2024 01:40 pm IST

Published - May 04, 2024 12:10 am IST

When the Israel-Hamas war began on October 7, the immediate priority of United States President Joe Biden was to prevent the conflict from widening into a regional war involving Israel and its rivals. Mr. Biden adopted a two-fold strategy. He offered unconditional support for Israel’s war on Gaza, launched after Hamas’s attack on October 7, in which at least 1,200 people were killed, and unleashed a diplomatic effort to keep tensions low between Tel Aviv and its neighbours. But when the war raged on for months, with huge civilian casualties in Gaza, the Biden policy started falling apart. Today, as the war is set to enter its eighth month, Mr. Biden looks increasingly vulnerable to its regional and domestic consequences. Over 34,000 people, a vast majority of them women and children, have been killed by the Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza; Israel vows to invade Rafah, the southernmost town in Gaza where more than 1.4 million Palestinians have taken refuge, despite Mr. Biden’s warning against such a move; with Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea and strikes and counterstrikes between Israel and Iran, the conflict has already spread beyond the borders of Palestinian territories and Israel, though a full-scale regional war has been avoided so far; the conflict has triggered massive protests by university students in the U.S., piling up pressure on Mr. Biden to reconsider his policy towards Israel.

To their credit, Biden officials have been working relentlessly to achieve a ceasefire and hostage deal between Israel and Hamas. Mr. Biden’s timely response to shoot down the drones and missiles fired by Iran against Israel and his warning to the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, that the U.S. would not join Israel’s retaliation against Iran, helped ease regional tensions. But his overall approach towards the crisis is flawed. The way Israel is carrying out its war on Gaza is against all the values America preaches about wars and human rights. The U.S. kept supplying weapons to the Jewish nation even amid mounting allegations and evidence that Israel was indiscriminately bombing and destroying Gaza. Even when Mr. Biden seemed frustrated with Mr. Netanyahu’s intransigence, he signed a Bill offering $17 billion in defence aid to Israel. Mr. Biden’s words and diplomatic efforts for truce are actually not matched by strong actions to pressure Israel. And, by continuing to arm and bankroll Israel’s genocidal war on Palestinians, Mr. Biden is debilitating his own moral arguments about foreign policy. Not just morality, Mr. Biden’s inability to rein in Israel is weakening America’s standing in West Asia and sullying his already fragile candidacy in the U.S. presidential elections in November. If the 81-year-old President is serious about peace in West Asia, he should first address the flaws in his policy towards Israel and Palestine. There were several examples of American Presidents using hard pressure on Israel for peace. Mr. Biden should at least show the courage to call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza and adopt policies, including suspending arms sales to Israel, to meet that goal.

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