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Opinion

President Biden Needs to Do More than Propose a Ceasefire Plan That Israel Already Rejected a Month Ago

According to a recent World Bank assessment, 62 percent of all homes and 84 percent of health facilities in Gaza have been destroyed. Credit: Hosny Salah

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Jun 2 2024 (IPS) - Throughout his long career, but especially these past heart-wrenching eight months, President Biden has consistently placed his ironclad loyalty to Israel over his fidelity and duty to the United States. The consequences this week have been catastrophic for the Palestinian people, made Israelis even less secure, and betrayed American national security and democratic integrity.

The entire Gaza Strip and its 2.3 million civilians, nearly fifty percent of whom are children, are now pushed to their limits, struggling to survive the complex humanitarian crisis literally facing every Palestinian man, woman, and child in the beleaguered enclave. By restricting the flow of food and essential aid through every land crossing, including U.S. humanitarian assistance, while simultaneously bombing civilian areas across the entirety of Gaza, Israel is accelerating levels of famine and displacement (The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification Scale). By doing so, it also violates multiple U.S. and international laws, preventing states from blocking humanitarian aid during times of war. “Israel has effectively created a gulag by sealing all borders and access to the sea, a cruel irony for a nation founded on the memory of Jewish ghettos in Warsaw (Anonymous source).”

Biden’s announcement on Friday that Israel had agreed to a ceasefire is the same plan that Israel said it would support a month ago and then decimated the Jabilia refugee camp and pushed forward with its ground assault on Rafah. Like his response to the I.C.J. ruling for Israel to halt its assault on Rafah earlier this week, President Biden has been utterly silent about Israel’s ongoing humanitarian blockade and military operations throughout the enclave. The only reply so far has been from his National Security Council spokesman, John Kirby. During a White House press briefing on Tuesday, Kirby essentially said, “Any loss of civilian life is heartbreaking…but for the moment, the U.S. won’t be making any changes to its foreign policy or its military aid to Israel. We don’t believe Israel’s actions in Rafah represent a major ground invasion. A major ground operation is thousands of troops maneuvered against targets on the ground.” Yet according to Omar Ashour, a Professor of Security and Military Studies at The Doha Institute of Military Studies, Israel’s “limited military operation” in Rafah is anything but limited, as “six brigades consisting of more than 30,000 ground forces and tanks reached the heart of Rafah on Tuesday” the same day that Kirby made his statement. In the week since Israeli forces entered Rafah, 70 Palestinian civilians have been killed and hundreds injured.

Thankfully, President Biden’s reckless foreign policy doesn’t speak for the entire U.S. government and nation. The millions of Americans bravely challenging his unquestioning diplomatic and military aid to Israel represent a cross-section of American society, including thousands of Jewish Americans as well as numerous Holocaust survivors and their descendants (www.doubledown.news, www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org). More than half of American voters, including a majority of democrats, republicans, and independents, disapprove of Israel’s actions in Gaza, according to a March Gallop Poll, and two-thirds of American voters have called for the United States to support a permanent ceasefire and a de-escalation of the violence in Gaza (Data for Progress, 27.02.2024 Survey).

Not only is President Biden consistently ignoring diverse calls for moral action on Gaza from college students and the general public, but he has foolishly sidelined critical voices from public servants across multiple U.S. government agencies as well as within his own administration. As early as October, Josh Paul, a Director in the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, responsible for U.S. defense diplomacy, security assistance, and arms transfers, was the first to ring alarm bells against “adding fuel to the fire.” Before resigning, Paul implored Biden Administration officials to apply the Leahy Law, a U.S. Foreign Assistance Act that prohibits military assistance to any force in gross violation of human rights. Amidst a mounting civilian death toll and countless war crimes being reported by multiple independent sources, not only was Paul’s warning dismissed, but President Biden doubled down and circumvented U.S. Congressional oversight on two separate occasions to expedite a $250 million sale of highly lethal weapons to Israel. Also in December, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, pressed upon the president to consider that as Israel’s principal arms provider, “the United States is not a bystander in Israel’s war against Hamas” and of the “unacceptably high civilian casualty rates in Gaza” due to Israel’s “very loose rules of engagement” and its “lack of restraint in pursuing Hamas leaders.”

On February 2, more than 800 civil servants signed an open letter calling on the Biden Administration to reconsider its unconditional support for Israel’s war in Gaza, stating that “Israel has shown no boundaries in its military operations and has further risked the lives of the remaining Israeli hostages.” In April, Hala Rharrit, a veteran U.S. Diplomat, and in May, Lily Greenberg Call, a Jewish-American political appointee, stepped down from their positions after months of warning that continued unconditional support for Israel from the White House was exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and failing to serve American foreign policy interests. As I write this opinion piece, two more U.S. Government officials have announced their resignations, bringing the number of U.S. government resignations to nine.

The plight of the Israeli hostages is growing more desperate by the day, and the number of casualties in Gaza has now reached 120,000. While President Biden’s renewed push for a ceasefire is welcome, it doesn’t go far enough. President Biden must personally lead efforts for a truce between Israel and Hamas by showing the United States is serious about peace. He can achieve this by taking three principled, immediate, and actionable steps to mitigate the violence and harm that the United States is contributing to in Gaza. President Biden must personally demand Israel reopen all land crossings, announce an arms embargo until a lasting peace is achieved, and enforce a no-fly zone over Gaza so that the hostages can be released in a calm environment and humanitarian organizations can safely and rapidly scale up desperately needed assistance efforts.

When the moment of reckoning comes, President Biden and his administration won’t be able to claim ignorance. All along these past eight months, Americans from both inside the U.S. government and the general public have spoken with moral clarity, asking President Biden to simply abide by the principles and domestic and international laws for which the United States is already a party.

The author is a Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Response Specialist

IPS UN Bureau

 


  
 
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