After Gaza ceasefire: ‘What’s Biden’s plan? There’s zero plan’

After 11 days of Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip killed more than 200 Palestinians, injured nearly 2,000, and left the territory in ruins, Joe Biden “commended” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for “the decision to bring the current hostilities to a close”.

The United States president has faced unprecedented criticism for failing to demand an immediate ceasefire to end Israel’s devastating bombing campaign, instead putting out what rights advocates described as milquetoast statements reaffirming Washington’s unequivocal support for Israel.

But despite that pressure, Biden stayed on message in his first comments since a ceasefire was announced on Thursday, once more emphasising that “the United States fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks”.

Now, as Palestinians in Gaza – living under a brutal blockade in one of the most densely populated places on earth – try to rebuild, experts say the Biden administration is hoping the Israel-Palestine issue will once again fall onto the back burner of US foreign policy priorities.

‘De-prioritise’

When Israel’s military launched attacks on Gaza on May 10, an issue the Biden administration had hoped to “de-prioritise” amid other, more pressing topics – COVID-19 recovery, racial justice, Iran talks – was thrust into the international spotlight.

For days, the US president and his top officials reaffirmed Israel’s “right to defend itself” while placing the blame squarely on Hamas, which had fired a barrage of rockets towards Israel. The Palestinian faction, which governs Gaza, said it began firing in response to Israeli attacks on Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem.

As the Palestinian death toll mounted, and Israel’s bombardment destroyed buildings across the territory – including a tower housing the media offices of Al Jazeera and The Associated Press – calls for action, especially from the Biden administration, grew louder. Thousands of people rallied in cities across the US demanding an end to Israel’s attacks and US legislators spoke out against what they saw as complicit silence from Biden, a longtime Israel defender.

Biden administration officials had insisted they were working behind the scenes to end the violence. But the US also blocked several attempts by the United Nations Security Council to release a statement demanding a ceasefire. And, during the Gaza attacks, The Washington Post reported that the Biden administration planned to sell $735m in weapons to the Israelis, in addition to the $3.8bn in military aid Washington gives to Israel every year.

“[US Secretary of State Antony Blinken] said that the strategy of the Biden administration is to make Israel feel more secure, more comfortable, in the hope that when it does then it will be willing to give concessions to the Palestinians and be a more reasonable peace partner,” Hashemi said.

“That all sounds nice and warm and fuzzy, but in fact, the record shows that it’s the exact opposite – that the more Israel is coddled, supported, sustained, the more belligerent and intransigent Israel becomes to making any concessions.”

Calls for accountability

On May 17, eight days into the Israeli offensive, Biden for the first time said he “expressed support for a ceasefire” in a phone call with Netanyahu. Biden then told Netanyahu on Wednesday that “he expected a significant de-escalation … on the path to a ceasefire”.

A day later, an end to the violence was announced; at least 232 Palestinians, including 65 children, had been killed and more than 1,500 wounded in Gaza, while tens of thousands of Palestinians were internally displaced. Twelve people, including two children, were killed in Israel.

“The Biden administration’s policies have been horrific and despicable, and make the United States 100 percent complicit in Israel’s massacres and atrocities against Palestinians,” said Josh Ruebner, an adjunct lecturer at the Georgetown University.

“That all sounds nice and warm and fuzzy, but in fact, the record shows that it’s the exact opposite – that the more Israel is coddled, supported, sustained, the more belligerent and intransigent Israel becomes to making any concessions.”

Calls for accountability

On May 17, eight days into the Israeli offensive, Biden for the first time said he “expressed support for a ceasefire” in a phone call with Netanyahu. Biden then told Netanyahu on Wednesday that “he expected a significant de-escalation … on the path to a ceasefire”.

A day later, an end to the violence was announced; at least 232 Palestinians, including 65 children, had been killed and more than 1,500 wounded in Gaza, while tens of thousands of Palestinians were internally displaced. Twelve people, including two children, were killed in Israel.

“The Biden administration’s policies have been horrific and despicable, and make the United States 100 percent complicit in Israel’s massacres and atrocities against Palestinians,” said Josh Ruebner, an adjunct lecturer at the Georgetown University.

Ruebner told Al Jazeera that while it was positive the Biden administration eventually backed a ceasefire, “it wasn’t that they suddenly developed some type of moral backbone” but rather that it responded to political pressure on the US streets and from progressive Democrats.

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