Skip to content

Joe Biden’s Israel red lines are taking shape

The United States is in “uncharted territory” in dealing with the war between Israel and Hamas as president Joe Biden is becoming more critical of Israel amid pressure to curb its actions in Gaza, a former director of the US National Security Council has said. Newsweek.

“As the war goes on, Biden is more inclined to push for moderation than before, now that Israel has had a very clear military success,” said Michael Doran, who was a senior director of the National Security Council (NSC) during the president’s administration. George W. Bushwhere he coordinated US strategy in the Middle East.

This may indicate that Biden is forming “red lines” on how the US wants Israel to approach the conflict going forward, as well as reiterating his support for a two-state solution when the conflict ends, even though the president must weigh multiple contenders. interests.

How Joe Biden’s Tone Changed

During a visit to Tel Aviv days after the October 7 attacks by Hamas in southern Israel in which 1,200 people were killed and 240 taken hostage, according to the Associated Press, Biden vowed: “You are not alone.” On October 27, after Israel’s intensified airstrikes on Gaza spurred global protests, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said: “We are not drawing red lines for Israel.” .

US President Joe Biden at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Week in San Francisco, California on November 17, 2023. Biden is facing pressure to curb military actions by ‘Israel in Gaza.
Getty Images/Brendan Smialowski

That may no longer be the case. Biden’s tone had changed on Nov. 2, when during a campaign speech interrupted by a protester who had called for an immediate ceasefire, Biden said for the first time that to secure the release of the hostages: “I think we need a pause”.

After the Israeli forces closed in The Shifa hospital, the largest in Gazawhich Israel says is a Hamas center — a claim denied by the militant group — Biden then called on Israel to take “less intrusive” actions in Gaza and warned that “hospitals must be protected.”

“There’s always been a fine line between showing support for Israel and wanting to slow it down from the start,” Doran said.

Doran also said Biden faces unprecedented circumstances in the Middle East to balance. These include protecting American bases in the Middle East from Iranian proxies, who have carried out repeated attacks. The demonstrations in the US could also cause him trouble at the polls in 2024 among Muslim voters, especially in Michigan.

Those aspects make the conflict unique, Doran said, adding that it’s hard to compare it to previous wars in the region, when the White House had been “inclined to let the Israelis follow their military dictates because they knew which were of limited scope”.

“The goals of this operation, to destroy Hamas’s military capability and its ability to govern, are quite broad and will require the Israelis to see it through to the end,” said Doran, who is now director of the Center for Peace . and Middle East Security at the Hudson Institute, a think tank based in Washington, DC

The two-state solution

As the leader of Israel’s biggest ally, Biden has asked congress to approve a $14.3 billion military aid package to Israel. But Western diplomats have said Biden must push the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahuthe government to facilitate its military operation, the Financial Times it reported, citing multiple sources, including Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, who told reporters that Israel had “two to three weeks” before being pressured to agree to a ceasefire.

In a comment for The Washington Post on Nov. 18, Biden said that while “a cease-fire is not peace,” there must be “no forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza, no reoccupation, no siege or blockade, and no reduction of territory”.

Calling for a two-state solution, Biden said Gaza and the West Bank “should come together under a single governing structure, ultimately under a revitalized Palestinian Authority (PA).” In response, Netanyahu said the PA “in its current form is not capable” of taking control of Gaza.

Palestinians receive aid
Palestinians receive bags of flour at the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on November 21, 2023. Continued Israeli airstrikes in Gaza present Biden with numerous political problems.
SAID KHATIB/Getty Images

Growing calls for moderation

Meanwhile, hospitals in the territory remain the focus of the war, after 12 people were killed when a shell hit the second floor of an Indonesian hospital, according to the Ministry of Health in Hamas-run Gaza. AP.

This followed the evacuation by the World Health Organization of 31 premature babies from Shifa, at least 28 of whom were flown to Egypt.

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said on Monday that the US wants “longer pauses” and “more humanitarian aid” into Gaza, while before Israel returns its military operations south of the territory, needs “answers to where civilians in southern Gaza can be safe”.

Miller said schools and hospitals must be “protected” and that “we don’t want to see them hit from the air,” adding that “too many Palestinians have been killed.”

But Doran said Biden has yet to tread a fine line in how his administration deals with Israel, beyond those relatively unspecific statements. “If Biden takes a very strong position and starts arguing with the Israeli government, an unstoppable force will meet an immovable object.”

“We’re really in uncharted territory,” he said. “I can also imagine that it will be difficult for Biden because the Israelis are incredibly united around these goals. No government, not a Netanyahu government, or any other government, can walk away from these goals without losing the support of the electorate”.

Pressure from within

There is also growing unease in the Biden administration over Israel’s actions. secretary of state Antony Blinken has received internal memos through a channel that allows employees to register disapproval of the policy, according to the BBC. Political appointees and government agency staff members have also expressed displeasure.

“The language and policy of the White House is certainly being shaped by domestic political considerations,” said Thomas Gift, director of the Center for American Politics at University College London. Newsweek.

“With a vocal wing of Biden’s party calling for a ceasefire, the administration is trying to balance the need for strategic alignment with its regional ally and the imperative to respond to growing domestic pressure among progressives at home “.