American collusion in the Middle East

Hussein Haridy
Tuesday 21 Nov 2023

The only route towards peace and security in the Middle East is by charting a sure and irreversible path towards the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, writes Hussein Haridy



 intended to write this week about the US-China Summit in California on 15 November that was held on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in San Francisco.

However, the opinion piece by US President Joe Biden published in the Washington Post on 18 November on the war of ethnic cleansing that Israel has unleashed on Gaza and the Palestinian people over the last six weeks made me change my mind.

I am postponing writing about the second in-person summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Biden in a year until next week, barring unforeseen developments in the Middle East. Their first in-person summit took place in November 2022 in Bali in Indonesia, where the two leaders were attending a G20 Summit.

In his Washington Post article, Biden linked the war in Gaza to the war in Ukraine. In the piece, entitled “The US won’t back down from the challenge of Putin and Hamas,” he wrote that both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Hamas “are fighting to wipe a neighbouring democracy off the map.”

He added that both hope “to collapse broader regional stability and integration and take advantage of the ensuing disorder.” He emphasised that the US “cannot and will not let that happen” in order to defend American national security interests and for the “good of the entire world”.

Biden repeated the position of his administration towards the war on Gaza by reiterating that Washington stands firmly with the people of Israel in defending themselves to ward off what he called the “murderous nihilism of Hamas.”

In an attempt to promote a certain balance in US policies in the Middle East in the light of the war, he stressed that the Palestinian people “deserve a state of their own and a future free from Hamas” without articulating what steps his administration will propose to establish such a state and how and when it will tell the Israelis that the occupation of the West Bank must end in order to build an independent Palestinian state.

Biden wrote that prior to the 7 October attacks in southern Israel carried out by Hamas, he had met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last September in New York where the two men discussed “a set of commitments” to see Israel and the Palestinian Territories “better integrated into the broader Middle East.”

He said that such an approach is behind the project of the economic corridor linking India to Europe through the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel.

He made it clear that a ceasefire in Gaza is not an option, even though the number of Palestinians who have lost their lives under the Israeli bombardments has reached 13,000, almost half of them women and children, on the grounds that as long as Hamas is committed to what he termed the “ideology of destruction” a ceasefire is not peace.

He believes that the return of Hamas to govern Gaza “would once more deny Palestinian civilians the chance to build something better for themselves.”

It was no surprise that on the same day as the publication of this article, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant announced that the second stage of the Israeli aggression against Gaza had begun two days earlier. This second phase would bring Israeli troops closer to Egyptian border with the Gaza Strip, he said.

It is also relevant to note that White House National Security Adviser Jonathan Finer, appearing on CBS’s Face the Nation in the US on 19 November, as quoted in the Washington Post on 20 November, said that US officials believe Israel has the right to embark on combat operations in the south of Gaza and added that these operations should not go forward before the Palestinians who have fled from northern Gaza to take shelter in the southern part of the Strip are accounted for by Israeli military planning.

He said that the US administration “has been conveying this directly to the Israeli government.”

On the other hand, Biden reaffirmed that the two-state solution is the “only way to ensure the long-term security of both the Israeli and Palestinian people… this crisis has made it more imperative than ever.”

To his credit, Biden outlined in general terms the post-war arrangements for Gaza. He rejected the forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza and said that there would be no Israeli reoccupation and no siege or blockade. He stressed that Gaza and the West Bank should be reunited under a single authority, ultimately a revitalised “Palestinian Authority as we all work towards a two-state solution.”

He also proposed working on “interim security measures” in Gaza as well as a mechanism for its reconstruction.

The most urgent priority now is a ceasefire in Gaza, and what follows should be entrusted to the UN and the Palestinian Authority (PA) with backing from Egypt, Jordan, and Qatar, the three Arab countries that have played a significant role in dealing with the Hamas leadership. All of them could agree to enforce transitional security and administrative measures in Gaza. The Israelis could always defend their borders with Gaza without the deployment of Israeli troops inside the Strip itself as a condition for security and stability.

The challenge is not destroying Hamas as such but how to chart a sure and an irreversible path towards the establishment of an independent Palestine. Only then can we win security, peace, and stability for all, including the Palestinians and the Israelis.

The US idea of an economic peace in the Middle East divorced from Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank and with the permanent Israeli dominance over the Gaza Strip is not sustainable in the medium and long term. Nor will it ensure security and stability in the Middle East.


The writer is former assistant foreign minister.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 23 November, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

Short link: