Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Opinion | President Biden, you have influence that can save lives in Gaza. Please use it.


President Biden seems tougher on Israel these days and shows more compassion for the starving people in Gaza. “There are a lot of innocent people getting into trouble and dying,” Biden said. “And it has to stop.”

But it will not stop on its own, and may even get worse if Israel invades Rafah, or if hunger turns into famine. It seems to me that Biden's concerns about the Palestinians are hollow because he was not willing to put strong pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop this.

So now we are in a strange situation: American bombs and American aid both of them Falling from the sky of Gaza.

In 1948, the United States and its allies carried out the famous mission Berlin Air Bridge To save West Berlin from the Soviet blockade. We are now engaged in another humanitarian airlift – this time because of the actions of our partner, not the enemy. Israel insists on conducting careful inspections of every aid truck entering Gaza. A senior administration official told me that Israel would return entire truckloads if they contained emergency birth kits, apparently because they included a small scalpel to cut the umbilical cord. UNICEF told me that Israel refuses to allow them to introduce portable toilets. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Jeff Merkley visited the Gaza border is found Israel banned water purification devices. Member of the British Parliament He said Israel banned 2,560 solar lights.

Because Biden couldn't convince Israel to cut back on the nonsense and let in enough aid to avoid famine, he moved to airdrops and sea passage — which is better than nothing, and also woefully inadequate. Cindy McCain, head of the United Nations World Food Programme, Warn Access to Gaza by road is necessary, and that “if we do not significantly increase the amount of aid going to the northern regions, famine will be imminent.”

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Diplomacy is as much about arm-twisting as it is about persuasion, but Biden appears unwilling to act in ways that give force to his words. Simply put, Netanyahu is ignoring the White House because there is no cost to doing so.

This is not entirely new. “Our American friends give us money, weapons, and advice,” Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan told a visiting American Zionist leader in 1967. “We take the money, we take the weapons, and we reject the advice.”

Avi Shlaim, historian, Tells The visitor asked what would happen if America said that Israel would not receive aid unless it followed the advice. “Then we should take the advice too,” Dayan replied.

Under tough-minded presidents, this has happened from time to time. My first visit to the Middle East involved touring Lebanon, torn apart after the 1982 Israeli invasion, which left many Palestinians dead but did not improve Israel's security. I did not know that President Ronald Reagan, behind the scenes, called Prime Minister Menachem Begin after a horrific artillery bombardment, and instead of asking for a halt, he ordered it to stop.

“I was angry,” Reagan wrote in his memoir, The New York Review of Books. male. “I told him it had to stop or our whole future relationship was in danger. I deliberately used the word Holocaust and said that the symbol of his war had become the image of a 7-month-old baby with his arms blown off.

“Twenty minutes,” Reagan added. “Later, he called me to tell me he had ordered an end to the bombing barrage, and called for our continued friendship.”

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I hope Biden shows similar resolve. He could attach end-use restrictions to offensive weapons shipments, limiting how they can be used (as he does with Ukraine). “He could simply adhere, as eight senators urged, to US law that ends military support for any country when the president finds it necessary.”restrictsDirectly or indirectly, the transfer or delivery of U.S. humanitarian assistance.

Under pressure from Congress, Biden issued it last month National Security Memorandum 20which inflates the law and requires Israel to confirm it By late March It allows for the delivery of humanitarian aid; Otherwise, they risk being supplied with offensive weapons. This represents leverage, but only if Biden is willing to use it.

The president could also publicly urge Egypt to allow aid trucks now parked at the border awaiting Israeli inspections to pass into Gaza even without Israeli approval. (It can conduct its own inspections if necessary.) Egyptian-Israeli security cooperation is important, but not if it prevents food from Gaza.

The United States can also abstain from voting on humanitarian resolutions at the United Nations rather than use its veto power. Biden could bypass Netanyahu and speak directly to Israelis — perhaps in the Knesset — and advocate for humanitarian aid, a ceasefire, and a path to a two-state solution.

Biden may deny that he actually has much influence. It's a fair point: Israelis were shocked by the Hamas terror attack on October 7, and are in no mood to hear strangers sitting safely in faraway lands plead for restraint. One depressing poll last month showed just that 68 percent Of Israeli Jews oppose allowing food and medicine to enter Gaza.

On the other hand, Israel has responded – albeit inadequately so far – to popular pressure and criticism. Only in the past few days have officials indicated they want to see more humanitarian aid, with a military spokesman saying the army is trying to “flood” Gaza with aid. A convoy of six aid trucks has been allowed to enter northern Gaza directly from Israel, which is encouraging.

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The truth is, we don't know how much leverage Biden has because he hasn't really tested his power. When Biden appeared to suggest this month that the Rafah invasion would cross a red line and could have repercussions, the White House immediately retracted his statement.

Perhaps Biden believes he is showing friendship and loyalty to an embattled ally. To Netanyahu and most of the world, it seems like weakness.

Meanwhile, Gazans are starving needlessly, and this may become part of Biden's legacy.

To explain how the current policy has failed, I will give the last word to Gaza linguist Muhammad al-Shanat, whose texts I quoted in my column last week. In a new letter, Al-Shanat recounted how he tried to collect food from airdrops to avoid starvation:

“My wife and I decided to go to the beach in the hope that we would get something to feed our children. There were tens of thousands of people waiting. Around 2:20 three planes started dropping their parachutes across the beach. People started chasing them. We chased one of these parachutes. But when the “Opening it we found bottles of water and bottles of vinegar. Two children died in the stampede. Because we were severely malnourished and had not eaten anything, it took us three hours to get home, as we had to take a break every 10 minutes. We cried all the way back.”