Netanyahu’s calculations and Biden’s preferences
For the past ten days, President Biden has appeared indifferent to the gravity of the humanitarian crisis and outrage resulting from Israel’s ongoing attacks. Israel’s actions in Gaza, which leave civilians with no option but death, are considered war crimes. Biden’s apparent indifference to this reality doesn’t contribute to a solution but rather exacerbates the problem. While claiming to support Israel and acknowledge the importance of Gaza’s civilians, attributing the responsibility for the hospital attack to the “other side” is a failure in Biden’s policy.
Did you say, “peace process”?
We’re accustomed to seeing U.S. administrations, when it comes to the Israel issue, often pursue Middle East policies that also harm their own interests. Since the Obama administration, the United States has aimed to minimize costs in the region, avoid entering new wars, and achieve a nuclear deal with Iran. However, reconciling these goals with unwavering, unconditional support for Israel is challenging. The events of the last two weeks highlight that endorsing the policies of far-right Israeli governments that undermine the security of Israel contradicts other Washington objectives. Biden seems willing to sacrifice Palestinian civilians to support Israel, all while ensuring it doesn’t escalate into a regional conflict.
The ‘Peace Process,’ you say?
The two-state solution formula based on the 1967 borders has been the foundation of the ‘peace process’ sponsored by U.S. administrations since President Clinton. Netanyahu, who built his political career through opposition to this process, has never believed in it and consistently tried to undermine it. His political career is marked by pushing American presidents into difficult situations. Just before Vice President Biden’s visit, Netanyahu authorized new settlement areas, openly opposing Obama’s freeze on new settlements and efforts for an Iran nuclear deal. Netanyahu has responded to presidents pressuring him for a peace process with new military operations, citing settlements and counterterrorism as reasons.
Netanyahu, who recently backed away from a U.S. assassination plot against Iran’s intelligence chief, blamed for cowardice by Trump, has had a problematic relationship with American presidents. One of the most significant dynamics in this equation is Netanyahu’s knowledge of American policy and his ability to influence U.S. politics through pro-Israel lobbying. By establishing strong ties with one of the most powerful organized groups in American politics, the Evangelicals, Netanyahu managed to anger even a U.S. leader, Trump, who pursued a pro-Israel-centric Middle East policy. Despite receiving extensive military and political support from Washington, Netanyahu consistently raised the stakes and managed to obtain even more. Yet, from Trump’s statements, we learned that Netanyahu might have thought that regional conflict with Iran could harm his political career, just as he was getting everything he wanted.
In the events of the last two weeks, we witness Netanyahu trying to exploit Hamas attacks. Faced with increasing domestic pressures and nationwide protests, Netanyahu might have seen normalization with Saudi Arabia and deepening normalization with Türkiye as a way out. Netanyahu’s politics revolved around the idea that the Palestine issue was over, and everyone should raise a glass to a two-state solution and Israel’s continued relations with Riyadh. While Israel’s ‘apartheid regime’ is not widely accepted in the U.S. and Europe, Netanyahu had to confront the reality that Hamas’ attack undermined the story he was telling. It appears that Netanyahu aims to assure his career by leveling Gaza and promising a new Middle East.
Biden, instead of distinguishing between supporting Israel and not falling into the trap of Netanyahu’s political plan, has missed a great opportunity. Netanyahu, who Biden did not want to invite to Washington and accused of undermining democratic institutions, now receives the prize for escalating violence-based politics. Rewarding Netanyahu’s tactics in this manner makes it easier for American policy to be condemned worldwide. The willingness to bear the costs generated by the ‘special relationship’ with Israel highlights the collapse of Washington’s regional policies.