President Joe Biden and his top aides are grappling with Saturday’s outbreak of violence in Israel and navigating a complex diplomatic situation unlike any previous conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
- Biden and Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu have been friends for decades, but their relationship has been strained by Netanyahu’s far-right ruling coalition in Israel.
- The political environment that divides the Palestinians will make it difficult for U.S. officials to find reliable negotiating partners.
- In the United States, an already active Republican presidential primary appears destined to blame Biden for helping to intensify attacks on Israel through his recent deal with Iran.
- Imminent is the historic normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which Biden had hoped was nearing the finish line.
It all adds up to one of the most volatile geopolitical situations of a Biden presidency, which is also facing a war in Ukraine that has become a thorny issue in domestic politics.
“We stand ready to provide all appropriate means of support to the government and people of Israel,” Biden told Netanyahu in a phone call on Saturday.
“Terrorism is never justified. Israel has the right to defend itself and its people. The United States warns any other party hostile to Israel not to seek benefits in this situation. My administration’s support for Israel’s security is unwavering ,” Biden said in a subsequent statement.
The last time major violence broke out in Gaza and Israel, Biden and senior U.S. officials played a key behind-the-scenes role in brokering a ceasefire. The president has had six phone calls with Netanyahu, as well as separate talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (who has no real power over Gaza) and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Say West had a phone call.
U.S. officials are also in hourly contact with their counterparts in the region and are relying on Egyptian and Qatari leaders to work with Palestinian militant groups in Gaza to reach a ceasefire.
Some of the president’s Democratic allies have pushed for a stronger response. But senior White House officials believe it would be more effective to work quietly with allies to end the violence.
That was more than two years ago. Since then, the relationship between the United States and Israel has become more complicated.
Biden has strongly opposed attempts by the Netanyahu administration to pursue judicial reforms, which he and other officials say amount to an erosion of democracy. That led to tensions between the two men and a face-to-face meeting was postponed until last month, when they held talks on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. At the time, Biden acknowledged that the two men had many “difficult issues” – including issues related to “checks and balances” – that needed to be discussed.
One official said the meeting ended up being “very constructive” and “very candid.” It included a lengthy one-on-one session without any aides present and Biden inviting Netanyahu to the White House.
Still, Netanyahu’s attempts to keep his far-right ruling coalition together could make U.S. diplomatic intervention in the conflict more difficult as he faces pressure to respond comprehensively.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was last elected to a four-year term in 2005 but remains in power after multiple elections were canceled. Palestinian political stagnation will only complicate the U.S. diplomatic response as the United States seeks to Which faction of men speaks. and.
Just this week, Biden had hoped to reach a major deal with Israel and Saudi Arabia to establish formal diplomatic ties, which could transform the entire Middle East.
The deal had been expected to include Netanyahu agreeing on certain concessions to the Palestinians, including a possible freeze on settlements and agreement on the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state.
“Obviously, such a move by Saudi Arabia would require addressing the fundamental issues between Israel and the Palestinians,” a U.S. official said after Biden’s meeting with Netanyahu, adding that this was a point in the leadership’s It was made clear at the meeting.
Saturday’s violence makes it difficult to imagine Netanyahu agreeing to these concessions now.
Even in the wake of the devastating attacks in Israel, one thing seems clear: It was only a matter of time before scenes of violence became a political attack on Biden.
The Biden administration issued a waiver this year that unblocked billions of dollars in Iranian funds as part of a deal to release five Americans the U.S. government believed were wrongly detained by Iran. The decision is sure to come back into focus given Iran’s funding of Hamas, which critics have linked to attacks by Israel.
A senior administration official said on Saturday that billions of dollars in funds unfrozen by the Biden administration in the deal “did not go to Iran, were used only for humanitarian purposes and not a penny was spent.”