American rhetoric towards Israel has changed

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In recent weeks, US President Joe Biden has increased his criticism of the management of the war in the Gaza Strip by the Israeli government Benjamin Netanyahu. Biden spoke of “indiscriminate bombing that is causing Israel to lose international support,” said Netanyahu “must change his approach” and called on Israel to focus more on “saving the lives of Palestinian civilians.”

These positions are similar to those expressed for weeks by various European leaders, but for an American president, they are quite new: the United States is Israel’s closest ally from a political, economic and military point of view. In the first weeks following the Hamas attack on Israeli territory on October 7, Biden publicly defended Israel’s right to respond in whatever way it deemed most appropriate, in a manner consistent with its alliance. traditional: Today, however, the Biden administration’s approach has visibly changed. .

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with Israeli government ministers on Thursday, asking them to launch a new phase of the conflict, with smaller-scale, targeted operations that do not involve massive bombings and allow Palestinians to care for injured or displaced civilians.

American newspapers, citing officials who wished to remain anonymous, also say that the Biden administration has indicated the deadlines within which the end of the current phase of the war is expected: the request from the United States would be to conclude it by here the end of the year. the year.

Biden’s change in approach came after months of mounting internal and external criticism over the U.S. administration’s seemingly unconditional support for the Israeli government. In a poll carried out at the end of November by the Gallup Institute emerged that 63 percent of Democratic voters, that is to say from Biden’s party, “disapprove” of the Israeli military intervention in the Gaza Strip. The percentage remains quite high, at 48 percent, even among voters not affiliated with any party.

Immediately after the October 7 attacks, the American president demonstrated his closeness to Israel with a trip to the Middle East on October 18. Biden had publicly reiterated on several occasions Israel’s right to “respond to attacks”, also showing his closeness and support for Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader whom he has known for decades but with whom relations have not always been simple.

The embrace between Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Biden’s idea was to relaunch an approach that had borne fruit a year earlier, during the previous crisis, in May 2021, between Hamas and Israel. At the time, Biden publicly supported the Israeli government, later attempting to direct its response and limit its excesses in private conversations. After the October 7 attacks and until a few days ago, the American president decided to proceed in the same way: full public support and an attempt to guide Israeli policy in bilateral negotiations, both personally and through through US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. , who has traveled several times and extensively to Israel and the Middle East since the start of the war.

This policy of “affection and influence » worked only sporadically: the only results obtained were the laborious opening of the Rafah crossing to humanitarian aid and the brief truce for the exchange between hostages kidnapped by Hamas and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons . However, this did not make it possible to limit the very violent bombings of the Israeli army, which certain journalistic investigations described as mostly blind . In the Gaza Strip, the situation of the civilian population is described as “desperate” by all international operators.

Not only are there no safe areas to take refuge in after the truce ends, but there is a lack of food, water, medicine and all the most basic forms of sustenance for daily life. . Added to this situation is a rapid growth in the spread of epidemic diseases among the population, who now live in critical sanitary conditions, often on the streets and without access to drinking water.

Faced with the failure of private pressure but also in the face of growing protests, the Biden administration therefore seems to have entered a new phase, in which pressure has become public. The president said Thursday: “I don’t want them to stop tracking Hamas, but to be more careful, more focused on saving civilian lives.”

Demonstration by activists from Amnesty International USA and Avaaz in front of the White House on November 15 (Eric Kayne/AP Images for Amnesty International USA and Avaaz)

A first indirect response from the Israeli government came from Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who reiterated that the war against Hamas “will last a few months.” The civil servants heard New York Times argue that the two positions are not necessarily contradictory. The American hypothesis predicts that operations will continue with the use of elite corps operating inside the Gaza Strip to eliminate Hamas leaders, find hostages and destroy tunnels.

It is not clear at the moment whether, from 2024, the Israeli government is ready to accept this new phase of the war, at a lower intensity than the current one. The United States and Israel, however, are certainly in distant positions regarding the future of the Gaza Strip: the Biden administration has repeatedly stated that government of the strip should be handed over to the Palestinian Authority, even if it is rather discredited even in the area where the government is officially located, the West Bank.

A screen with part of Biden’s speech in Israel on October 18 (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Netanyahu has always rejected this solution and also reiterated this week during a parliamentary hearing that, in the Israeli government’s plans, Gaza would remain “under Israeli military control.” On another occasion, he was even clearer: “I want to be clear: after the great sacrifice of our civilians and soldiers, I will not allow those who teach, support and finance terrorism to enter Gaza. I will not allow Israel to repeat the mistakes of Oslo. »

With the Oslo Accords of September 13, 1993, Israel and Palestine recognized each other for the first time as legitimate interlocutors and Israel recognized the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s right to govern some of the occupied territories. It was the first time that the so-called “two-state solution” found concrete realization. The Israeli right, including Netanyahu, has always been highly critical of the deal, and in recent years has mostly returned to it.

Source: ilpost


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