[Column] America is letting itself be bullied by Israel

Posted on : 2024-01-17 17:19 KST Modified on : 2024-01-17 17:34 KST
The Biden administration’s requests for restraint in Gaza are being answered with one-finger salutes
Protesters in London don masks of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and US President Joe Biden on Jan. 6 and call for an end to the war in Gaza. (Reuters/Yonhap)
Protesters in London don masks of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and US President Joe Biden on Jan. 6 and call for an end to the war in Gaza. (Reuters/Yonhap)


By Jung E-gil, senior international affairs writer

“The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread ‘democracy’ throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world. This situation has no equal in American political history. Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state?”

In March 2006, John Mearsheimer, a professor at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt, a professor at Harvard University, published the book “The Israel Lobby and Foreign Policy.” In it, they argued that by offering its unconditional support and financial aid to Israel, the US was acting as Israel’s puppet. Washington’s loyalty to Israel was endangering US national interests and the security of its allies — not only in the Middle East but around the world. The authors claimed that the US domestic and foreign policies were at the mercy of pro-Israel lobbyists, noting that anybody who was critical of such policies was automatically labeled an “antisemite.” 

As expected, the authors were sprayed with accusations of antisemitism. In a way, the wave of hate proved their point.   

Sunday, Jan. 14, marked 100 days of the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. The war brings to mind the authors’ words. 

“At every juncture, Netanyahu has given Biden the finger,” said US Sen. Chris Van Hollen during an interview with Axios. “They are pleading with the Netanyahu coalition, but getting slapped in the face over and over again.” 

Van Hollen has been in close contact with Biden administration insiders about the war. According to the senator, despite receiving the US’ unconditional support, Israel is brushing off every American request. After over 100 days of war, Axios said that some US officials have indicated that “behind the scenes, there are growing signs that Biden is losing his patience.”

Apparently, the Biden administration has requested that Israel accept the role of a reformed Palestinian Authority in postwar Gaza, scale down its war operations, and expand humanitarian aid in Gaza — all to no avail. According to Axios, Israel has also refused to release Palestinian tax revenues.

Officially, the US hasn’t issued a word of protest against Israel. Washington’s statements include sentiments like “Israel has the right to defend itself” and “The US is focused on ensuring Israel can defend itself from Hamas.” After the outbreak of the war, Biden spoke with Netanyahu on the phone every two days, until Dec. 23, 2023, after which there has been 20-day silence. During a press conference on Jan. 10, John Kirby, the coordinator for strategic communications at the White House National Security Council, claimed the lapse in communication “doesn’t say anything about the relationship between the prime minister and the president or between the United States and Israel.” 

 

Palestinians gather around the bodies of those killed in airstrikes by Israel outside Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis in southern Gaza on Dec. 20, 2023. (Reuters)
Palestinians gather around the bodies of those killed in airstrikes by Israel outside Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis in southern Gaza on Dec. 20, 2023. (Reuters)

Almost all the collateral burdens of the war in Gaza are falling on the US. This collateral led to the US launching an attack on Houthi (Ansar Allah) militants, putting shipping routes in the Red Sea and the Suez Canal out of commission for the time being. What’s more troubling, however, is that Houthi militants won’t back off so easily. Houthis have called for an end to the war in Gaza, vowing to attack Israeli ships in the Red Sea. It’s a group that doesn’t have much to lose in the first place. After emerging victorious from the civil war in Yemen, the Houthis seem to view the Israel crisis as an opportunity to solidify their status while profiting from raids in the Red Sea and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. The interests of the Houthis align with those of their sponsors in Iran. 

According to the New York Times, the recent attack on the Houthis did nothing to negate their offensive capacity. To completely disarm the Houthis, the US needs to engage in a full-scale conflict in the Red Sea. Having vowed revenge, the Houthis can simply bid their time by attacking in Red Sea waterways using cheap drones and missiles. Although the Islamic world is not shy about its opposition to Israel, the Houthis are currently the only Islamic power that’s directly fighting the Israelis. Needless to say, public opinion in Islam-majority countries favors the Houthis. Even the Saudis, who organized the anti-Houthi force during Yemen’s civil war, are remaining quiet.  

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has called for Palestinians to vacate the Gaza Strip and allow Israelis to resettle. According to Axios, Netanyahu is becoming increasingly willing to listen to extremists like Ben-Gvir. Facing plummeting support ratings, Netanyahu has no political option other than continuing the war, this means marching troops toward a second front: Hezbollah. 

The Iraq War, one of the biggest foreign policy disasters for the US, and the breakdown of the Iran nuclear deal, which was the biggest US setback in the Middle East before the Gaza war, all worked in Israel’s favor. And now, the US is footing the bill for yet another war in the Middle East. 

In 100 days of war, at least 23,968 people have died, with 60,582 wounded. Around 240 people are dying each day, with an average of 90 children dying per day. This means that roughly 0.01% of Gaza’s population of 2.2 million people are dying on a daily basis. The 1,139 Israelis who died during the Hamas surprise attack seem to pale in comparison to such numbers. 

The US is trapped in the bog of Israel’s war, being dragged and slapped around. Can Washington prevent a further escalation of the conflict?

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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