Edited by The Nation
IT IS ABOUT AS BAD AS IT CAN GET for Secretary of State Antony Blinken. This weekend, he attempted to sell allied Middle East capitals on the green light President Joe Biden gave to Israel to flatten Gaza, while also proposing some meager measures to mitigate the resulting mass Palestine suffering. All he heard was rejection, and it’s the kind of rejection that spells the end of Biden’s Middle Eastern strategy.
In Israel, with the $14 billion military package Biden is moving through Congress in his back pocket, Blinken asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to institute “humanitarian pauses.” These humanitarian pauses are a nebulous idea to have Israel briefly stop bombing, shelling, and raiding to allow food, water, medicine, and other necessities of life into Gaza. The request stops far short of a cease-fire that hundreds of thousands around the US marched for this weekend.
To the Biden administration, the humanitarian pause must have seemed an elegant way to thread the needle between the contradictory demands of Israel and Washington’s Arab partners on Gaza. Yet, immediately after meeting with Blinken on Friday, Netanyahu rejected it. No one familiar with Netanyahu’s career—which includes humiliating then–Vice President Biden in 2010 with settlement construction in Jerusalem when Biden was there to push the resumption of peace negotiations with the Palestinians—has an excuse for expecting otherwise. Not only is Netanyahu in grave political danger the moment the war stops, but he is experienced in running through a yellow light when he knows the United States is unwilling to give Israel a red one. Accordingly, Israel turned off communications in Gaza, which the Biden team took credit for restoring when Israel shut them down the previous weekend, and the whole predicate of the humanitarian pause is to deliver the aid that formed the most concrete achievement of Blinken’s last trip to the region.