ARAB AND WORLD

Wed 21 Feb 2024 5:40 pm - Jerusalem Time

The Biden administration, isolated and under pressure, tries to qualify its support for Israel without denying itself

By Piotr Smolar 

For the third time since the start of the war, the United States vetoed a draft resolution at the UN on a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. But this time, the White House proposed its own text, which links the end of the fighting to the release of all the hostages.


Distancing yourself without letting go of Israel's hand: this is the impossible maneuver that the Biden administration is undertaking. Faced with glaring diplomatic isolation, the United States is trying to qualify – without calling it into question – its support for the Jewish state, while the open war in Gaza after the Hamas attack on October 7, 2023 has caused some 29 000 Palestinian deaths, mostly civilians. For the third time since the start of the war, on Tuesday February 20, Washington blocked with its veto a draft resolution in the UN Security Council, calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. The text, carried by Algeria, was supported by thirteen out of fifteen countries, with the United Kingdom abstaining.


“We simply were not in a position to support a resolution today that would have jeopardized sensitive negotiations,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday. The latter referred to ongoing diplomatic contacts to secure a temporary ceasefire lasting several weeks in Gaza, in exchange for the release of hostages held by Hamas. To this end, Brett McGurk, Joe Biden's Middle East advisor, is expected back in Cairo on Wednesday to meet with the powerful head of Egyptian intelligence, Abbas Kamel, one of his main interlocutors. On Tuesday, Ismaïl Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas political bureau, was in the Egyptian capital.


On Wednesday, Brett McGurk will also be in Israel, as the country plans a military offensive in the Rafah region, south of the Palestinian enclave, to complete its land operation. After a telephone conversation the week of February 12 between Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House renewed its opposition to such an offensive on Tuesday. It would be "a disaster", said the spokesperson, for lack of a "credible plan" for the approximately 1.4 million Palestinian refugees squeezed in the south of the strip in absolute distress.

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The Biden administration, isolated and under pressure, tries to qualify its support for Israel without denying itself