Home » Biden works to create plausible deniability as he backs Israel’s assault on Gaza – breaking news

Biden works to create plausible deniability as he backs Israel’s assault on Gaza – breaking news

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Biden works to create plausible deniability as he backs Israel’s assault on Gaza – breaking news

This week saw a welcome break in Israel’s constant destruction of the Gaza Strip, but it was only a pause, not a ceasefireas Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made sure everyone knew. Israel’s assault on Gaza has recommenced, and the United States, and President Joe Biden in particular, have remained steadfast in their backing.

Biden referred to Israel’s initial bombing attack, prior to its ground invasion, as “indiscriminate,” and that was a phrase his people didn’t walk back. It’s always difficult to know whether to read more into Biden’s words since he so frequently doesn’t seem to know what he’s saying, but the comments from not only the President but others in the administration show that they are feeling the domestic pressure from their constituents and the international pressure from their allies to try to restrain Israel from such massive civilian casualties as it has created since October 7.

But what does any of this mean on the ground now that Israel has started up its military operation again? This is not clear. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told a television news program that the U.S. fully supported Israel resuming its operations but that it must do so only “after civilians have been accounted for, have the opportunity to be in safety, have access to humanitarian assistance and to be out of the way of any military operation that is conducted.”

But what can that possibly mean in southern Gaza? Some 80% of Gaza’s residents have fled to the south, packing the residents of what was already one of the most densely overpopulated places in the world into half of the Gaza Strip.

In addition, there is a massive humanitarian crisis that the meager amount of aid that has been allowed barely begins to address. As the World Health Organization has noted“[There are] no medicines, no vaccination activities, no access to safe water and hygiene and no food.” These shortages will become more acute as Israel pursues its next phase. The people who die as a result of these factors will not be included in the war dead by most official counts. How can civilians possibly be safe even in an alternative reality where Israel was trying to avoid civilian casualties?

The answer, of course, is that they cannot be. But the Biden administration wants to create the illusion that they are doing something to limit the number of civilian casualties. There are a few factors in that effort.

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The first is Israel itself. The fact that Biden’s comment about “indiscriminate bombing,” a small truth among his massive pile of deceptions, was not walked back lays some groundwork for an American claim of restraining Israel. If we think back to the early days of Israel’s bombing campaign, we recall that Gideon Sa’ar of the National Unity — one of the opposition figures brought into the government for the purposes of legitimizing the management of the war on Gaza — said that Gaza “must be smaller at the end of the war.”

This tracks with Israel’s behavior over the seven weeks of its campaign. It has rendered the north uninhabitable for the foreseeable future, even by the already diminished standards of the besieged Gaza Strip. During that time, Israel has reported the killing of only a handful of leading Hamas figures. Indeed, during the bombing portion, they were clearly targeting civilian sites.

The ground operation has been slow going, and it is clear to anyone paying attention that, despite the massive death and devastation, Israel has not come close to “wiping Hamas off the face of the Earth,” as Defense Minister Yoav Gallant vowed it would. We are nowhere close to the end. However, in recent weeks, it has become clear that the Biden administration is becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the manner of Israel’s assault.

Plausible deniability for Biden

Biden’s Special Envoy for Middle Eastern Humanitarian Affairs David Satterfield introduced what he called a new “deconfliction mechanism” for Gaza last week. This, he says, is a new system to make sure that Israel knows where humanitarian aid workers are so they will not continue to be killed at the highest rate of any conflict in the United Nations’ history.

This is addressing a problem that doesn’t exist. UN and other relief organizations have been coordinating with Israel for decades about their activities in Gaza and where they are working. Israel has not been attacking UN sites, hospitals, schools, mosques, and humanitarian aid facilities and vehicles by mistake. Instead, they have argued that Hamas and other militant groups are using them as cover and they are therefore fair game.

International law, of course, does not give Israel the right to launch such attacks if the sites are full of civilians, even if it believes militants are using them for combat purposes outside of extreme cases of self-defense. Moreover, Israel has generally been unable to provide anything but the flimsiest and most suspect of evidence to support their often outrageous claims.

But this “deconfliction mechanism” allows the Biden administration to claim it is working to protect innocent lives in Gaza while it continues its support of Israeli actions. The duplicity of this move is evidenced by the fact that Biden continues to refrain from criticizing Israel’s deliberate targeting of Gaza’s medical and humanitarian infrastructure. If that’s not a red line, then the “deconfliction mechanism,” an already redundant idea, is utterly meaningless.

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It can’t be stressed enough that what we have in the south of Gaza now is an intense concentration of people so densely packed in that it would be impossible to launch even the most careful military operation without enormous civilian casualties. There simply is no room to create the sort of “safe zone” the U.S. is claiming Israel will magically conjure.

But the theater continues. One U.S. official, speaking anonymously, said“ You cannot have the scale of displacement that took place in the north replicated in the south.”

That’s true, of course. There’s nowhere for them to go. Egypt is not going to allow masses of Gazans through the Rafah crossing — which couldn’t accommodate this kind of flight in any case. There’s little left in the north to flee to, and Israeli forces would be in the way. So, every bullet that misses its intended target, every loose piece of flying shrapnel or debris, has a good chance of hitting a civilian. It is not credible that Biden administration officials, from the President on down, don’t know this.

So when Sullivan talks about giving Palestinians in the south of Gaza the opportunity to “get out of the way” of an Israeli military operation, he knows he is speaking gibberish. It wasn’t possible for Palestinians to do that when the 2.2 million people in Gaza were packed into the full area of the Strip. They’re now jammed into half that space.

On Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken once again told Netanyahu to protect civilians. But Biden, despite reportedly telling Netanyahu he mustn’t operate in the south as he did in the north, also made it abundantly clear that he will continue to rebuff any suggestion of material pressure on Israel or any reduction in practical support for its war effort. That refusal to use material pressure is the bottom line, and Netanyahu knows that very well.

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There is only one way to avoid this horrific outcome, and that is through a permanent ceasefire. But Biden is preparing for that as well by raising the specter of the two-state solution again. For thirty years, this has been the U.S. and Israel’s preferred method for ensuring that Palestinians do not realize rights to which all of us are entitled. Biden’s dream of a return to the status quo ante, where he can again ignore the question of Palestine and focus on making deals between apartheid Israel and Arab Gulf dictatorships, is almost as dangerous as the free rein he’s given to the most radical right-wing government in Israel’s history.

It is crucial to seize this moment and focus it on Palestinian rights, the realization of which is the only way out of this nightmare of death, destruction, and traumatization that entrenches hostilities. There is only way out, and that is the restructuring of the apartheid state into an actual democracy, the support of full and equal rights for all who live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and the construction of the political structures that can sustain and nurture those rights for everyone. That is the only path forward, though it can take many different forms. It can even be two states if that’s what Israelis and Palestinians still want at that point. The form of the future will be for Palestinians and Israelis to decide. Those of us outside, especially those of us near the centers of power, need only make it possible.

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