Editorial: Biden needs to act now

Al-Ahram Weekly Editorial
Tuesday 4 Jun 2024

US President Joe Biden’s statement earlier in the week about the need for the war on Gaza to end promptly is an indication that Washington is realising, however late, that Israel’s eight-month war comes at a hefty price, not just for the Palestinians being massacred the Israeli army for 245 days but also for the region, for US interests and allies in the Middle East and for this particular US administration.

 

Clearly, the Biden administration is the target of heavy criticism from within US human rights quarters and sectors within the Democratic Party for having accommodated Israel’s decision to carpet-bomb Gaza, kill over 35,000 people, mostly women and children, and injure over 100,000, many with lifelong conditions. It is also very clear that the scheme pushed by the Biden administration to take Arab-Israeli normalisation to a new level, with normalisation between Israel and Saudi Arabia, has been stopped in its tracks.

While the Biden administration had no plan to be so deeply involved in Middle East politics, with its Pivot-to-Asia orientation, it ended up sending the US secretary of state and the CIA chief to the region for over six times each to try to find a solution to the problem — and it’s clear that failure to achieve that aim is due to the intransigence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has pushed the war so far that the ICJ and the ICC to both condemn Israel for crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Some US senators still found it appropriate to invite Netanyahu to address Congress to explain his case for the war on Israel nonetheless. This is obviously showing the complex nature of the political background against which the Biden administration is acting. This invitation is in itself a vote of support for Netanyahu.

However, if the Biden administration cannot gather the necessary political strength to force Israel to end this war sooner rather than later, the consequences will simply be too damaging. Irrespective of the electoral chances of Biden himself in the probably tough presidential race scheduled for the autumn, this war has created a visible sense of anger across the region at the failure of the US to conceal its shocking bias to Israel which was repeatedly demonstrated in its UNSC use of the veto against resolutions aimed at ending the war.

Israel, the US’ strongest ally in the region, is also subject to growing anger — almost unprecedented since the end of the Arab-Israeli wars of the 1970s. Arab capitals that have been invested in integrating Israel into the region have been forced to suspend most scheduled schemes for cooperation.

Even if the war was to end tomorrow, the layers of anger and dismay that have been sweeping Arab and Muslim majority countries, especially among the younger generations, will take years to dissipate. There is no telling how this anger will metamorphose, especially if this war continues much longer.

It is clearly no easy task for Biden to do what it takes to end the war, but he has no choice except acting firmly and promptly. Nobody is assuming that he is trying to stop the war for the sake of innocent Palestinians but he knows that their ongoing killing is not serving his interests or those of his close allies.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 6 June, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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