Biden faces tough choices in the Israel-Gaza conflict: A closer look 

Biden faces tough choices in the Israel-Gaza conflict: A closer look 

  • Complex Diplomatic Challenge: President Joe Biden faces a highly intricate diplomatic challenge in managing the Israel-Gaza conflict. This situation is marked by strained relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a fragmented Palestinian political landscape, and domestic political pressures in the United States.
  • Challenges in US-Israel Relations: The relationship between the United States and Israel has become increasingly complicated, with President Biden openly criticizing Netanyahu’s government. While recent talks between the leaders were described as “constructive,” Netanyahu’s political constraints make American diplomatic intervention in the conflict even more challenging.
  • Uncertain Diplomatic Prospects: The outbreak of violence in Israel has cast doubt on the prospects for a significant agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which President Biden had been working on. This situation adds further uncertainty to the potential for diplomatic progress in the region, given the complexities of the conflict.

Oct.7:President Joe Biden and his administration are grappling with the sudden eruption of violence in Israel, a situation that presents a unique and complex diplomatic challenge in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Several key points highlight the intricacies of the situation:

  1. Tensions in US-Israel Relations: President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who have shared a friendship spanning decades, now find their relationship strained due to Netanyahu’s leadership of a right-wing governing coalition in Israel. This tension adds a layer of complexity to the administration’s response.
  2. Fragmented Palestinian Landscape: The Palestinian political environment is marked by divisions and internal conflicts, making it challenging for American officials to identify a reliable negotiating partner among the Palestinians. The lack of a unified voice among the Palestinian factions further complicates the diplomatic efforts.
  3. Domestic Political Pressure in the US: On the home front, an already active Republican presidential primary campaign is likely to seize upon this situation, placing blame on President Biden for potentially fueling attacks on Israel through his recent Iran deal. Additionally, in the background, there is the significant development of a historic normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia, an initiative that President Biden had been working towards.

These factors converge to create one of the most volatile geopolitical scenarios during President Biden’s tenure, further compounded by other international challenges such as the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, which has become a politically sensitive issue domestically.

In a recent phone call with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Biden expressed the United States’ readiness to provide support to Israel in the face of the escalating violence. He reiterated the stance that terrorism is unjustifiable, emphasizing Israel’s right to defend itself and warning against any hostile actions by parties targeting Israel. President Biden’s administration maintains a steadfast commitment to Israel’s security.

Reflecting on the past, during the previous major outbreak of violence between Gaza and Israel, President Biden and senior American officials played a pivotal, albeit discreet, role in facilitating a ceasefire. The President engaged in multiple discussions with Prime Minister Netanyahu and also held talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (although his influence over Gaza is limited) and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

US officials maintained continuous communication with regional counterparts, relying on Egypt and Qatar to mediate with Palestinian militant groups in Gaza, ultimately achieving a ceasefire. At that time, some of President Biden’s Democratic allies advocated for a more forceful response, but the White House determined that quiet diplomacy with allies was the more productive path to ending the violence.

However, the situation has evolved significantly since then. The relationship between the United States and Israel has grown increasingly complex. President Biden has openly criticized Netanyahu’s government for its attempts at judicial reform, which he and other officials argue pose a threat to democratic principles. This criticism led to a delay in a face-to-face meeting between the two leaders until last month when they held talks during the UN General Assembly in New York. During this meeting, President Biden acknowledged that they had substantial “hard issues” to address, including concerns related to the system of “checks and balances.”

Nevertheless, the meeting was deemed “constructive” and “candid” by officials, featuring an extended one-on-one discussion without aides, and President Biden even extended an invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu to visit the White House.

However, Netanyahu’s ongoing efforts to maintain his far-right governing coalition add another layer of complexity to any potential American diplomatic intervention, as he faces pressure to respond assertively to the current situation.

Furthermore, the political deadlock within the Palestinian territories has complicated the US diplomatic response. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, elected to a four-year term in 2005, continues to hold power, having canceled several subsequent elections. This internal political stagnation adds uncertainty to American efforts to identify a suitable Palestinian partner for negotiations.

As recently as this week, President Biden had been optimistic about nearing the completion of a significant agreement involving Israel and Saudi Arabia to establish formal diplomatic relations. This potential diplomatic breakthrough was seen as a transformative development in the Middle East, with expectations that the deal would include concessions from Israel, possibly involving a freeze on settlements and a commitment to an eventual Palestinian state. These elements were made clear during President Biden’s meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

However, the recent outbreak of violence has cast doubt on Netanyahu’s willingness to make such concessions at this time, further complicating the prospects for diplomatic progress in the region.

One thing has become evident in the aftermath of the tragic events in Israel: this situation is likely to become a focal point of political criticism directed at President Biden. The administration’s decision to issue a waiver, which unfroze billions of dollars in Iranian funds, as part of a deal to secure the release of five Americans who had been wrongfully detained by Iran, is expected to come under scrutiny. Critics are likely to draw connections between these unfrozen funds and the attacks in Israel, particularly given Iran’s support for Hamas.

A senior administration official has clarified that the billions of dollars unfrozen as part of the deal were intended solely for humanitarian purposes and did not flow to Iran.

In summary, President Biden faces an intricate and politically charged situation in the Israel-Gaza conflict, marked by strained alliances, fragmented Palestinian politics, and domestic pressures. The situation represents one of the most challenging geopolitical tests of his presidency, occurring concurrently with other pressing international issues.

About Author

Ahmed Hassan

Ahmed Hassan, a distinguished Ph.D. holder in Political Science from Stanford University, is your go-to expert for in-depth political analysis. His well-researched articles provide valuable insights into the complex world of politics. Ahmed's commitment to balanced reporting and informed commentary ensures you're always up-to-date with the latest developments in the political landscape.

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