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Biden’s Gaza ceasefire push is a road to fatal escalation

Despite public calls to end the war in the Middle East, in reality all Washington is doing is encouraging a greater conflagration

US President Joe Biden’s ceasefire push has so far led to further violence in Gaza and threatens to spill over into a war with Lebanon. Washington is either asleep at the wheel or is willing to push the entire region off a cliff in order to avoid ditching its “unconditional support” for Israel.

The speech delivered by Joe Biden on May 31, in which he presented an Israeli ceasefire proposal, urging both Hamas and the Israeli government to accept it, provided a glimpse of hope that finally the US was putting its foot down. The US President gave what seemed to be a reasonable roadmap to secure a lasting cessation of hostilities in Gaza and a prisoner exchange.

The immediate Hamas response was to view the speech “positively,” while still maintaining that it required an Israeli withdrawal of its forces from Gaza and a complete end to the war, in order to agree to any proposal. On the other hand, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, stuck with his previous rhetoric about the need to destroy Hamas, was indicating that he was not going to agree to a ceasefire.

Netanyahu took things even further by asserting that Joe Biden’s description of the Israeli ceasefire proposal was not accurate,” also making it clear that there would be no ceasefire until his war goals were achieved. Giving legitimacy to the Israeli PM’s assertions was an article published in The Economist that revealed details of the proposal, in which it became clear that the three-phase ceasefire would be more difficult to conclude, beyond its first phase, than Biden had let on.

Although a series of articles have been released in the Western media, including a Reuters interview with an anonymous Biden administration official, portraying the president’s actions as a bold attempt to pressure Israel to agree to its own proposal, it appears that this move is failing. As the daily death toll rises in besieged Gaza, the Israeli government continues to declare its intention to destroy Hamas, the Palestinian Party that it is supposedly about to conclude a deal with. This as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is being sent on yet another Middle East trip to try and help conclude a ceasefire deal as the effort nears collapse.

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Boys watch smoke billowing during Israeli strikes east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 13, 2024.
Only one power could stop Israel’s Rafah invasion – but it dropped the ball

Israel, meanwhile, continues to escalate its assault on the southernmost Gazan city of Rafah, while renewing incursions and aerial assaults throughout the strip. All of this flies in the face of the International Court of Justice (ICJ)’s recent ruling that ordered Israel to halt its military operation in Rafah. On top of this, the tit-for-tat battles that have been going on since October between Hezbollah and the Israeli military along the Lebanese border, have also escalated to what many consider to be a point of no return; making a new Israel-Lebanon war nearly inevitable.

All of this is very reminiscent of what happened before, when Hamas announced, on May 6, that it had agreed to a ceasefire proposal. The proposal was admitted to be almost identical to the one that was repeatedly lauded by Antony Blinken as a strong deal during his last visit to the region.

On that same day, the Israeli military immediately launched its long-threatened offensive in southern Gaza, seizing the Rafah Crossing between the Palestinian territory and Egypt. At that time, the Israeli PM reiterated what he had been consistently saying beforehand about pursuing the destruction of Hamas and his government decided to signal their refusal to agree to the ceasefire.

Again, with the US now bringing forward Israel’s own ceasefire proposal, the predicament does not seem to have changed much. Benjamin Netanyahu is in a difficult position domestically, after failing to achieve any of his war goals in Gaza, he faces the prospect of his governing coalition collapsing if he accepts a ceasefire agreement with nothing to show for eight months of war. The Israeli people also heavily favor re-occupying the strip, with 0% of Israeli Jews polled saying they would like to see Hamas continuing to govern the besieged coastal enclave after the war.

Therefore, Netanyahu knows the political repercussions for him and others in the Israeli ruling class if he accepts a ceasefire agreement with Hamas. However, he also knows that, despite US pressure on his government to bring the war in Gaza to an end, the American government has no teeth behind its forceful statements and will indefinitely continue its “unconditional support” for Israel.

Not only that, when the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, called for the issuance of arrest warrants for Netanyahu and his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, the US government threatened the court. US lawmakers immediately began to draft legislation to sanction the ICC. When the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued its provisional rulings, as a result of the so-far successful South African genocide case against Israel, the US announced it disagreed with the conclusions.

Even though the US abstained from a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) vote that called on Israel to halt its military operations in Gaza until the end of Muslim Holy month of Ramadan, the Biden administration illogically called the resolution non-binding and gave the Israelis the greenlight to violate it. American lawmakers have even just drafted legislation to condition aid to the Maldives, after that nation made an independent decision to stop Israeli citizens from entering their country due to war crimes committed in Gaza. Now the UN has added Israel to its infamous blacklist for killing Palestinian children, and the US has implemented another double-standard in continuing to provide weapons to a nation added to this list.

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FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel’s immunity cracks: The Hague goes after Netanyahu

Despite the mountains of reports of war crimes from international human rights groups, the decisions made by the UNSC, UN general assembly, the ICC and ICJ, the United States government works to protect the Israeli government at all costs. This has to be kept in mind when we look at the American approach to implementing “red lines” with their Israeli allies, which the Biden administration still cannot find the words to actually define. Even when it comes to the invasion of Rafah, which Washington openly said would be a “disaster,” it was simultaneously preparing another military aid package worth 14 billion dollars.

Understanding all of this, Benjamin Netanyahu was still invited to Washington to address the US Congress and faced with some pressure to conclude a deal. He can rest assured that the Americans will stand by his side no matter what he chooses to do. So, if you are Netanyahu, what incentive is there to stop the war at this point? The Biden administration is filled to the brim with empty and vacuous strategies, which have led to public calls for ending the war, while privately refusing to ever hold Israel accountable.

The big problem this time around is that the continuation of the war will not only mean an escalation of the horrors in Gaza, but is heading towards a massive conflagration with Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Unlike Hamas, Hezbollah possesses the missile capabilities to respond to Israeli airstrikes with devastating effect that could lead to the deaths of hundreds, even thousands, of Israelis. Under great domestic pressure to launch an assault on Lebanese territory, Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be closer to opening a catastrophic conflict with Lebanon, instead of concluding a ceasefire and prisoner exchange with Gaza. In his eyes, a war with Lebanon could even provide the perfect lethal distraction that would enable him to negotiate a ceasefire in Gaza, but at the expense of triggering a much larger and deadlier war.

June 15, 2024 at 12:25AM

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