Antony Blinken will visit Israel again amid tension between the White House and Netanyahu |

The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, arrived in Saudi Arabia this Wednesday, the first stage of a new tour of the Middle East that will take him to Israel on Friday. The visit of the head of US diplomacy coincides with the escalation of tensions between the two allies, after the warnings from the White House against an Israeli ground offensive on Rafah and, especially, after the statements of Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, last Thursday, about the need to seek a replacement for Benjamin Netanyahu for being “an obstacle to peace.” Some comments that have raised eyebrows in the Government that he presides over, and that have brought Republicans and Israelis closer together.

With expectations of a ceasefire frustrated, both in the dialogue in Qatar and in the stalled resolution proposal for a cessation of hostilities by the United States in the UN Security Council, now in its fifth version, the Blinken’s trip seems destined to be one more since the war began on October 7. In fact, his stopover in Israel did not appear in the official trip program and was only announced when he had already landed in Jedah, before meeting with the Saudi crown prince, Mohamed bin Salmán, without giving any explanations about the omission of the stage in the official itinerary.

The growing tension between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is already an open secret, despite the fact that the White House statements after each of the telephone conversations they have show a good climate for dialogue. But the opposition of the Democratic Administration to the ground offensive on Rafah, in addition to its demand that Israel allow sufficient access for trucks with humanitarian aid to the Strip, have further tightened the rope. This same Tuesday, Netanyahu rejected Biden’s request to put on hold his plans to attack Rafah, the city located at the southern end of the Strip that is home to more than half of the enclave’s 2.2 million inhabitants.

There is concern among governments in the region because the Israeli attack on Rafah seems imminent and impossible to stop. The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, called this Wednesday in Turkey for more diplomatic efforts and pressure to prevent the assault. “If military operations were extended to Rafah, we would be facing a true humanitarian catastrophe and we all have to do what we can to prevent that from happening,” said the head of Spanish diplomacy during a press conference with his counterpart. Turkish, Hakan Fidan, in which he also called for the “opening of all land crossings to allow unconditional access for humanitarian aid to Gaza.” It cannot be allowed, Albares said, that, in addition to “with bombs,” Palestinians are also killed “with hunger.” “31,000 innocent Palestinian deaths are more than enough,” he criticized, reports Andrés Mourenza. Turkey has played an important role in negotiations to achieve the release of hostages held by Hamas and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, as well as in sending humanitarian aid and treating wounded Gazans evacuated from the Strip.

Trump speaks out on Gaza

The manifest tension between the Biden and Netanyahu administrations has few precedents in the history of the two allies since the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. Also in Biden’s resume, which, as he recalled in the recent state of the union, has always been a convinced apologist for Israel (he also made this clear when visiting the country in the first days of the war). The differences have multiplied exponentially due to the harsh message from Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish representative in the Democratic Administration, about the need to replace Netanyahu at the head of the country (Biden called it a “good speech”; Netanyahu, of interference in internal affairs). As a consequence, friction between both governments has brought Israelis and Republicans closer together. Although he has hardly spoken about the conflict, Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for presidential re-election in November, said this Tuesday that Jews who vote for the Democratic Party “hate Israel and hate their religion (…), the Democratic Party hates to Israel.”

The war in Gaza has become an electoral asset for November 5, in every sense: for and against. Biden has received a serious warning in the primaries of several states from tens of thousands of Democratic voters who did not check the box with her name, to punish his support for Israel. This has pushed the White House to try to distance itself from its traditional ally, although it continues to sell weapons, unlike, for example, Canada, which approved this Tuesday to interrupt the supply. The Israelis seem to have found greater accommodation among the Republicans, judging by various movements behind the scenes. Netanyahu addressed Republican senators virtually this Wednesday during his caucus meeting. Schumer declined a similar meeting with Democratic senators.

According to the Axios portal, House Republicans are even considering inviting the Israeli prime minister to address Congress, in response to Schumer’s criticism. The proposal was discussed in a closed-door meeting of the Republican Conference this morning and was then “suggested by several people” to the Speaker of the House, Republican Mike Johnson, according to the aforementioned source.

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