Americans Don't Understand Biden — And Biden Doesn't Trust Netanyahu
Challenged back home, U.S. President Joe Biden has just published an op-ed in the Washington Post in which he outlines a future for the Palestinian territories that's different from the one envisaged by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and threatens violent settlers in the West Bank with sanctions. But where are the teeth?
PARIS — Joe Biden has a problem, and then some.
The first is that a large proportion of Americans don't understand his policy of support for Israel and his refusal to call for a ceasefire. This is particularly true among young people, with 70% of 18-34 year-olds saying they disagree with the way he has been handling the conflict.
The second problem is that the president of the United States does not trust Benjamin Netanyahu, the man leading Israel at such a crucial time. He already didn't trust him before October 7, and he is wary of his ideas for the post-war period in the Palestinian territories.
Thus unable to satisfy his opponents on the ceasefire question (he wants to give the Israeli army a chance to destroy Hamas's infrastructure in Gaza), Joe Biden has published an op-ed in the Washington Post to show his disgruntled constituents that he won't let Netanyahu dictate the agenda, and perhaps to gain time.
For the first time, the American president threatens to impose sanctions against violent settlers in the occupied West Bank. This is a new development, after years of ceremonial condemnation, to no avail, of Israel's expanding colonization efforts, often through violence.
The Israeli far-right
The United States (much like French President Emmanuel Macron, as shown in his calls yesterday to both Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority) are appalled by the behavior of West Bank settlers, who keep adding fuel to the fire — and do so with the blessing of the far-right Minister of Public Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, and the army.
A way of saying 'I see you'.
More than 200 Palestinians have been killed since October 7, either by settlers or in army raids.
The Americans fear that the far right will take advantage of the war in Gaza to create chaos in the West Bank, and expel many Palestinians from their land, or even from the territory. Joe Biden's warning is a way of saying "I see you". But that may not be enough.
Pro-Palestinian protest in Washington on Nov. 18
Solutions to the conflict
When it comes to the post-war period, contradicting several Israeli leaders, the U.S. president advocated that there be no displacement of Palestinians from Gaza, no siege or blockade of the territory, as has been the case for 15 years, nor any reduction in the size of the Gaza Strip, as has been suggested by the Israeli Defense Minister.
He once again spoke out in favor of a two-state solution. In this line of thought, he writes, a first step would be the administrative reunification of the West Bank and Gaza, under the aegis of what he called a "revitalized Palestinian authority", although giving no further details.
Biden's words obviously raised a good deal of skepticism, as the obstacles remain immense. By putting his proposal down on paper, Joe Biden is trying to connect with the three following: Israeli leaders, those of a post-war era he hopes will be Netanyahu-free; with the Palestinians, who have no confidence in him; and with his 2024 voters, whom he fears losing.
In any case, it's a sign that Biden, unlike Netanyahu, doesn't believe in a military solution to the conflict. But that doesn't stop him from supporting an offensive that is getting less popular with world opinion with each passing day.
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