Why Joe Biden's Visit To Israel Was Such A Deep Diplomatic Failure
The American president succeeded in obtaining humanitarian corridors through Gaza, and supported Israel's claims that it wasn't responsible for bombing a Gaza hospital. But in the Arab world, he consolidated his image as Israel's main supporter, and lost the political battle for public opinion.
PARIS — The two million Palestinians living under siege in Gaza will now soon be able to access humanitarian aid waiting for them on the other side of the Egyptian border. Though this was the net result of Joe Biden's whirlwind visit to Israel on Wednesday, the U.S. president had arrived with many other objectives — and they are far from having been achieved.
To say that this trip was affected by Tuesday night's deadly strike on a Gaza hospital would be an understatement. It changed the nature of the American leader's visit, and Biden found himself caught up in the controversy over the origin of that strike.
Biden endorsed the Israeli claim that it was a rocket fired by Islamic Jihad that malfunctioned and fell on the hospital. This is obviously a strong endorsement of the position Israel is trying to put forward, which they argue is based on a number of technical elements.
But in the heated context of the Middle East, even those Arab countries that have established diplomatic relations with Israel, such as the United Arab Emirates, or those who were about to do so, such as Saudi Arabia, are placing the blame squarely on the Jewish state.
The U.S. position and Israel's arguments do not change a thing: the "Arab world" has made up its mind.
To determine whether this trip was a failure, we need to take into account two objectives. The next few days will tell us whether either have been achieved.
A failed trip
The first was to contain the Israeli army's response: Biden did not deny that Israel had the right to defend itself, but he did ask it to respect "the rules of war."
The second was to avoid a regional flare-up. The whole American military deployment in the region — two aircraft carriers in the eastern Mediterranean, bombers in Jordan, as well as Biden's own visit — was designed to send a message to Iran that if a front to the north, with Hezbollah, was to open up, Iran would not walk away unscathed.
Will this message be heard? Tehran's statements are hardly encouraging.
The problem is that Biden wanted to move forward in two directions: solidarity with Israel, and dialogue with Arab leaders. This second political component fell through after the hospital strike.
Israel's biggest supporter
In the eyes of Arabs, the U.S. now appears to be Israel's main supporter, and also bears responsibility for what is happening in Gaza.
This is nothing new, but for years there had been talk of American disengagement from the Middle East. They're up to their necks in it, including yesterday when they vetoed a Brazilian resolution at the UN Security Council calling for "humanitarian peace." France voted in favor of the resolution.
This is all the more problematic for the U.S. as it is losing a power struggle in the Global South, which it has waged with Russia and China. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have been together in Beijing for the past two days, celebrating their friendship and reaping the rewards of their pro-Palestinian commitment. They haven't condemned Hamas, and they're calling for peace, which doesn't cost them much.
The most incredible thing about this sequence of events is that the horror of the terrorist attacks of Oct. 7 is already long gone — and the Palestinian question has returned to center stage. It puts the West on the defensive on that other, important battlefield: for world opinion.
— Pierre Haski / France Inter
In other news ...
🗞 UP, FRONT PAGE AND CENTER
Venezuelan daily El Periodiquito lends its front page to the easing of U.S. sanctions on Venezuela, after President Nicolás Maduro and the country’s opposition agreed on international supervision of the next elections in the country. The Maracay-based newspaper praises the “temporary lifting” of several Trump-era sanctions imposed on Venezuela, including on the oil and gas sector. The Biden administration still warned that the suspension of sanctions on oil and gas, in force for six months, could be reconsidered if there is no progress toward democratic elections.
💸 IN BRIEF
The U.S. is experiencing a “historic flight of investors,” reports German daily Die Welt. In troubled markets, investors regularly park their money in safe, stable U.S. government bonds — but despite geopolitical turmoil, that's not happening right now, writes business journalist Holger Zschäpitz. In fact, it’s the exact opposite: Investors are fleeing U.S. bonds amidst fears of slowing growth and political instability in the U.S., where members of the House of Representatives still haven’t managed to agree on a new Speaker.
The situation could create a “vicious circle,” Die Welt notes, where higher interest rates drive financing costs up, in turn creating a need for more new bonds and then higher interest rates – and an even more unstable financial situation.
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