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Analysis | The US and Israel have a “major credibility problem”

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In a heated exchange earlier this month, a senior US official warned his Israeli counterparts of the “reputational damage” as a result of the ongoing war in Gaza. The internal memo of the exchange with Deputy Secretary of State Bill Russo, obtained from NPR correspondent Daniel Estrinprovided another example of the rift between the Biden administration and Israel, caused largely by growing American dismay at the humanitarian consequences of the conflict and Israel’s role in exacerbating it – even as the United States shields Israel in international forums and help replenish its costs War Machine.

According to NPRRusso said in his March 13 call that Israel – and the United States, as Israel’s security guarantor and close ally – faced a “major credibility problem” because of the war, the staggering Palestinian death toll (now more than 32,000 people). man-made famine gripping devastated areas of the Gaza Strip and growing global frustration with Israel’s insistence on prolonging the war to completely eradicate the militant group Hamas.

“Israelis appeared to be oblivious to the fact that significant and potentially generational damage is being done to their reputation not only in the region but also elsewhere in the world.” said the memo. “We are concerned that the Israelis are missing the forest for the trees and making a major strategic mistake by writing off their reputational damage.”

Russo’s Israeli interlocutor scoffed at the claim and suggested that anger against Israel was more widespread online and on social media platforms like TikTok than in the real world, the memo said. This view is consistent with Israel’s current rejection of outside criticism, including recent claims that it is not violating international law by restricting the flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

On Saturday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said spoke to reporters at the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt. “People around the world are outraged by the horrors we are all experiencing in real time,” he said said about the plight of Palestinians in Gaza, most of whom have been driven from their homes and are now starving. “I carry the voice of the vast majority of the world: We have seen enough. We’ve heard enough.”

Israeli officials remain unmoved. On the same day that his UN colleagues reiterated calls for an immediate ceasefire and the deeper goal of a two-state solution, Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the organization, spoke out in lieu of the need impose a vague program of “de-radicalization.” to the entire Palestinian population. He said the majority of Palestinians do not want peace and compared them to Germans who came from the Third Reich.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres visited Egypt’s border with Gaza on March 23, while Israel pledged to send troops near the border. (Video: Egyptian government via Reuters)

His comments came as the UN Security Council again failed to agree on a resolution calling for some sort of ceasefire in the conflict. This time, after a series of US vetoes, the Biden administration put forward its own draft resolution that, while not actually calling for a ceasefire, did invoke the “imperative” to achieve a ceasefire. Russia and China vetoed the attempt, which was supported by 11 countries on the 15-member panel.

“It quietly allows civilian casualties to continue and lacks protective measures to prevent further escalation,” said the U.N. envoy from Algeria, which also voted against the U.S.-proposed resolution. “It is a laissez-passer to continue killing Palestinian civilians.”

US officials find themselves in an uncomfortable situation. They are pushing for an increasingly isolated and unpopular Israeli government on the world stage, while behind the scenes they are occasionally trying to persuade right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take a different path, almost six months after Hamas carried out its Oct. 7 terror attack launched an attack on Israel. Netanyahu has responded stubbornly, recently rejecting Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s request to reconsider an impending military offensive on Rafah.

Meanwhile, world leaders, even allies, are chiding the United States for its complicity in the ongoing crisis. “When I travel around the world, politicians often ask me why the Irish have so much compassion for the Palestinian people,” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said during a joint appearance at the White House with President Biden on St. Patrick’s Day. “The answer is simple: we see our history in their eyes. A story of displacement and dispossession, a national identity questioned and denied, forced emigration, discrimination and now hunger.”

“The administration has tried to pressure Israel to push for a weeks-long ceasefire, allowing a massive increase in aid deliveries, but without stopping arms shipments so that the country can continue its war against Hamas,” my colleagues reported last week . The contradiction becomes untenable and creates greater divisions within the Biden administration.

“The humanitarian situation is literally unbearable – it damages the consciousness of humanity. “This can’t happen these days,” a White House adviser told my colleagues. “It is the humanitarian situation that has led us into open confrontation with the Israelis.”

In Washington, a group of 17 Democratic senators sought to increase pressure on Israel, calling on the Biden administration to reject Israeli claims that they do not violate international law by restricting humanitarian aid. Her intervention came at a time when debate was growing in some circles in Washington about suspending arms sales to the Israeli government.

“I don’t understand how anyone can judge the situation in Gaza at the moment. “It suggests that there is an acceptable humanitarian response system in place, and it is quite clear that the restrictions imposed by the Netanyahu government are the root cause of the humanitarian crisis there,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) recounted my colleagues.

Separately, the human rights groups Oxfam and Human Rights Watch issued a joint report last week he documented alleged Israeli violations in obstructing the flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza. They called on the Biden administration to abide by U.S. law and suspend arms shipments, saying Israeli assurances that they would not violate international law could not be taken seriously.

“There are good reasons why U.S. law prohibits arms support to governments that block life-saving aid or violate international law with U.S. weapons,” said Sarah Yager, Washington director at Human Rights Watch in a statement. “Given the ongoing hostilities in Gaza, the Israeli government’s assurances to the Biden administration that it will meet U.S. legal requirements are not credible.”

However, Israel’s credibility problem is also that of the United States.

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