Israels National Security vs Palestinians Humanitarian Crisis — Global Issues

  • Opinion by Alon Ben-Meir (new york)
  • Inter Press Service

Whereas the United States provides military aid to Israel, including bombs and other defense systems, as a part of the US strategic alliance, this support has always been rooted in their shared democratic values, mutual security interests, and historical ties.

It is also influenced by domestic political factors within the United States, including strong support for Israel among the American people and American lawmakers.

At the same time, the US is facing tremendous pressure to provide humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians in Gaza, including food, water, medicine, and fuel.

Having failed to persuade Israel to increase these supplies to the Palestinians recently, the United States decided to drop this aid from the air and now is also considering building a floating pier to provide such support from the sea, aiming at alleviating the humanitarian crisis.

This could lessen, to some extent, the dire shortages of these essential supplies, but they are no substitute for direct deliveries from Israel in terms of quantities and speed.

This dual approach of supporting Israel’s security needs while also providing humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians is part of the US’ broader diplomatic effort to balance its interests in the region.

However, the United States’ effort to promote regional security by supporting Israel’s right to defend itself while advocating for the Palestinians’ humanitarian needs and acting on them presents a dilemma for President Biden. The Biden administration may well have to resort to direct measures to force Netanyahu to change his policy.

There are significant policy differences between Netanyahu and Biden that go back years before the Israel-Gaza war. They include policy differences related to the expansion of the settlements in the West Bank, the Iran nuclear deal, and President Biden’s efforts to renegotiate a new deal in the wake of Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA.

In addition, and perhaps most importantly, they differ dramatically regarding the overall approach in the search for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where the United States supports a two-state solution to which Netanyahu vehemently objects.

There is also significant disagreement on two other major issues: The Biden administration would like the Palestinian Authority to take charge of the Strip following the end of the war.

Conversely, Netanyahu completely opposes the return of the PA to Gaza, primarily because he wants to maintain security control over most of the Palestinian territories and prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.

As he stated in January, “I will not compromise on full Israeli security control over the entire area in the west of Jordan – and this is contrary to a Palestinian state.”

In addition, whereas President Biden wants to see a clear exit strategy from the war, Netanyahu is insisting on maintaining indefinite security control over Gaza, which, from the United States’ perspective, will result simply in the expansion of the Israeli occupation and creeping annexation of Palestinian territories, with no resolution in sight.

It should be noted that the upcoming US presidential elections in November are playing a role in Netanyahu’s strategy. If there are only two people in the world who want Trump to win the election this fall, the first is Trump himself, and the second is Netanyahu. The Israeli prime minister will do everything in his power to undermine President Biden’s reelection.

He is cheering the fact that President Biden is intensely criticized by some Congressional Democrats as well as a multitude of young voters who oppose his unwavering support of Israel while tens of thousands of Palestinians have died and counting.

He will prolong the war as long as it serves his personal interest and weakens Biden politically as he is embarking on his reelection campaign.

President Biden should not allow Netanyahu to set the agenda. He must now take definitive measures to alert the Israeli public that, although the US commitment to Israel’s national security is unshakable, the US administration differentiates between the state of Israel and the current Netanyahu government with which he has fundamental disagreements.

To that end, there are five different measures that will not affect the US commitment to Israel’s national security but will send a clear message to Netanyahu that the US must draw the line and will not allow him to drag the US into the morass of his own creation.

Although some of these measures are sensitive and may raise some objections from Congress, nevertheless, the Biden administration has no choice but to act to alleviate the massive humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

First, as one of Israel’s largest financial supporters, the US could use its economic aid as leverage. Adjusting such aid levels and stipulating specific conditions related to its use could pressure Netanyahu, at least in part, to reconsider his policies, albeit as indicated, this particular approach is sensitive and would need to be carefully balanced to prevent unintended consequences.

Second, since the United States provides significant military aid to Israel, the administration should assess the kind of weapons it is providing to Israel that indiscriminately kill many innocent Palestinians, such as bombs.

This may well force Netanyahu to follow the US’ advice to resort to a surgical approach to weed out Hamas fighters and potentially capture or kill some of Hamas’ leaders. This, too, would send a clear message that the United States cannot sit idly by while the carnage in Gaza continues, however inadvertently that might be.

Third, on a political level, the United States can introduce a resolution or vote in favor of a resolution in the United Nations Security Council that calls on Israel to agree on a ceasefire for six to eight weeks and allow the flow of aid to the Palestinians while negotiating the release of the hostages.

Fourth, since President Biden has been advocating a two-state solution, he should act by taking interim measures to demonstrate his commitment to that objective. To start, Biden should allow the reopening of the United States mission in East Jerusalem to serve the Palestinians.

In addition, Biden should invite the Palestinian Authority to reestablish its mission in Washington, DC, to restore ties between the United States and the Palestinians. These two measures will demonstrate to the Palestinians that Biden means what he says and, community, congressional Democrats, and many of the EU and Arab states.

Fifth and most importantly, President Biden himself should make a public statement to the effect that while the United States is and will remain committed to Israel’s national security, it has clear disagreements with the Netanyahu government.

As such, the US will no longer support the Netanyahu government in any way that might aid it in continuing its military campaign without clearly spelling out a strategy that will achieve four objectives: 1) dramatically minimize civilian casualties by resorting to surgical operations; 2) articulate a credible exit strategy from Gaza; 3) allow for the creation of an international peacekeeping force to assume overall security; and 4) facilitate the return of the Palestinians to their homes once the fighting comes to an end.

Needless to say, these measures rest on a set of considerations as stated above and their political implications. Nevertheless, President Biden has no choice but to act to balance his commitment to Israel’s national security and his determination to permanently alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a retired professor of international relations, most recently at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University. He taught courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

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© Inter Press Service (2024) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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