How violence between Israelis and Palestinians took the US by “surprise” and poses a special challenge



Since coming to power, Biden has not nominated a US ambassador to Israel, nor a consul general in Jerusalem for the Palestinians.


© Getty Images
Since coming to power, Biden has not nominated a US ambassador to Israel, nor a consul general in Jerusalem for the Palestinians.

When US President Joe Biden cited his foreign policy priorities in a speech to Congress two weeks ago, he avoided any mention of Israelis and Palestinians.

For some, that reflected a reality: Biden is more focused on issues such as climate change, China, Russia, Iran or emigration from Central America, than on seeking a solution to a conflict in the Middle East that lasts over time.

After all, his four predecessors in the White House broke their promises or actual efforts to reach a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.

Since taking office in January, Biden has not even nominated a US ambassador to Israel, nor a consul general in Jerusalem for the Palestinians.

But the escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians this week, with dozens killed and warnings from the United Nations about the risk of a “full-scale war” in the Middle East, poses an unexpected challenge for Washington, experts say.

“That it happened this way and intensified so fast I think is a surprise” for the Biden government, says Nathan Brown, an expert on the Middle East at George Washington University, to BBC Mundo.

Now many are wondering what role the US, Israel’s key ally, will play in this crisis.

An effective third party?

After two days of escalating violence in the Middle East and various questions about his policy, Biden pseemed to take a more active position in the last hours.

The president spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday by phone and “conveyed his unwavering support for Israel’s security and Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself,” the White House reported.

During the conversation, Biden also “condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including against Jerusalem and Tel Aviv,” the official statement said.



Different analysts believe that in the last four months Washington has shown little interest in promoting a peace agreement in the region.


© Getty Images
Different analysts believe that in the last four months Washington has shown little interest in promoting a peace agreement in the region.

“My hope is that we will see this come to a conclusion sooner rather than later,” the president later told reporters.

On the same Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke separately by phone with Netanyahu. and with the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, to discuss the situation and call for an end to the violence, said his spokesman.

Blinken also “immediately” dispatched his deputy undersecretary for Israeli and Palestinian affairs, Hady Amr, to the region to meet with leaders from both sides.

However, repeatedly questioned by journalists about what the US can do apart from calling for tensions to be reduced, Blinken stuck to his script, not to mention eventual exit paths.

Washington has indicated that it maintains diplomatic contacts with countries in the region such as Egypt, Jordan and Qatar.

However, for now none of this seems effective in stopping the violence.

The UN Security Council held its second emergency meeting this week on Wednesday to discuss the crisis.

But both meetings ended without a joint statement being issued, according to different reports. due to US reluctance.

Howard Stoffer, a former US foreign service member who served for years on the UN Security Council, believes that “in the absence of a strong government in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, violence will continue unless a third “managed to mediate successfully.

“And I’m not sure that Americans are considered an effective third party as before, because the role that the US played in the four years of the Trump administration was very partial in favor of Israel, “Stoffer told BBC Mundo.

Alternatives?

For now, Biden has changed only part of Trump’s Middle East policy, for example by reestablishing economic aid and diplomatic ties with the Palestinians cut off by his predecessor.

However, are still valid other controversial measures by the Trump administration that symbolized its unprecedented support for Israel, including the passage of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Trump also made Washington stop considering Israel’s settlements in the West Bank illegal, moving away from the dominant position in the international community, and promoted with Netanyahu a plan for the Middle East that the Palestinians rejected as a “conspiracy” against them.



The UN Security Council held its second emergency meeting this week on Wednesday to discuss the crisis.


© Getty Images
The UN Security Council held its second emergency meeting this week on Wednesday to discuss the crisis.

The Biden government has, since its inception, declared its intention to resume a more traditional position to include support for a “two-state solution” for Israelis and Palestinians.

But different analysts believe that in the last four months Washington has shown little interest in promoting a peace agreement in the region.

“I realize that the administration has lowered priority to the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian issue. But the lack of an ambassador to Israel and a consul general in Jerusalem is a serious problem during a crisis, “Aaron David Miller, former US negotiator for the region, tweeted on Tuesday.

Both Israeli and Palestinian officials have criticized the positions of the Biden government in recent days, considering them unfavorable to their interests.

In turn, a left wing has emerged in recent times within Biden’s Democratic Party. more inclined to the Palestinians and to demand pressure on Israel, for example in relation to the settlements.

By simply stepping in to name Hamas’s actions, which are reprehensible, and refusing to recognize the rights of the Palestinians, Biden reinforces the misconception that the Palestinians instigated this cycle of violence. This is not neutral language. Take a side. , the occupation side, “Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocaso-Cortez tweeted on Wednesday.

On the other hand, from the Republican opposition they had Accused Biden of Discouraging Israel’s Support, which is suspicious of the US intention to re-float the nuclear pact with Iran buried by Trump.

Brown, the George Washington University expert, believes the Biden administration has assumed that the policy of promoting a two-state solution “has come to an end” but lacks an option to raise instead.

“So if the old politics is gone and there is no real alternative, I think what they really want to do is focus on other things, like Iran“, he says.

“The main objective of the policy,” he argues, “is simply to keep the situation contained and make sure it doesn’t get worse.”

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