US struggles to sway Israel over its assault on Palestinians with Netanyahu unlikely to yield
Though the United States, as Israel’s closest ally and largest weapons supplier, has stronger means to apply pressure on Israel, it shows no willingness to use them.
WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden’s administration keeps pressing Israel to reengage with Palestinians as partners once fighting in Gaza is over and support their eventual independence. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu keeps saying no.
Even on actions to alleviate the suffering of Palestinian civilians, the two allies are far apart.
That cycle, frustrating to much of the world, seems unlikely to end, despite US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s fourth urgent diplomatic trip this week to the Middle East since the Israel-Hamas war started. Though the United States, as Israel’s closest ally and largest weapons supplier, has stronger means to apply pressure on Israel, it shows no willingness to use them.
For both Netanyahu and Biden, popular opinion at home and deep personal conviction in the rightness of Israel’s cause, and each man’s battle for his own short-term political survival, are all combining to make it appear unlikely that Netanyahu will yield much on the US demands regarding the Palestinians, or that Biden will get much tougher in trying to force them.
Support of Israel is a bedrock belief of many American voters. Biden’s presidential reelection bid this year puts him up against Republicans vying to outdo one another in support for Israel. For his part, Netanyahu is fighting to stay in office in the face of corruption charges.
Some experts warn it’s a formula that may lock the US into deeper military and security engagement in the Middle East as hostilities worsen and Palestinian civilians continue to suffer.
“It’s a self-defeating policy,” said Brian Finucane, a former policy adviser in the State Department on counterterrorism and the use of military force.
“What may be expedient in terms of short-term domestic politics may not be in the long-term interests of the United States,” said Finucane, who is now a senior adviser to the International Crisis Group research organization. “Particularly if it results in the United States involving itself in further unnecessary wars in the Middle East.”
The administration says Biden’s approach of remaining Israel’s indispensable military ally and supporter is the best way to coax concessions from the often intractable Netanyahu, whose government ministers were trumpeting their rejection of some of the US requests even as Blinken was still in the region.
Since Hamas attacked on Oct. 7, the US has rushed arms and other aid to Israel, deployed forces to the region to confront escalated attacks by Hamas’ Iran-backed allies, and quashed moves in the United Nations to condemn Israel’s bombing of Palestinian civilians.