Joe Biden’s fake spat with Benjamin Netanyahu

Veteran Palestinian journalist Abdel Bari Atwan says we shouldn’t be fooled by the U.S. president’s pretence that he’s getting tough with Israel, when in reality the Americans and Israelis are planning the genocide of Palestinians together.

Joe Biden’s threat to suspend the shipment of heavy bombs to Israel to prevent it from invading Rafah is a poorly scripted and badly performed pantomime.

It is intended to give the impression that there is a serious dispute between the two allies in order to defuse the anger of the student revolt in U.S. universities and improve his chances of being re-elected in November.

It is also aimed at saving the face of his Egyptian ally, whose collusion in the war on Gaza takes the guise of “restraint” to avoid living up to its moral and human — not to mention Arab or Islamic — obligations.

Biden is a professional liar, outdoing even Netanyahu in that regard. His threat is worthless. And there are several reasons why it will not prevent the invasion of Rafah.

Israeli invasion of Rafah

First, Israeli forces have already gone into Rafah and occupied its border crossing, flying Israeli flags and shutting it down completely. That means halting the meagre amounts of aid that were getting through and inflicting famine on the city and the entire Gaza Strip.

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Secondly, Israel already has thousands of the 1,000 and 500-ton bombs which Biden threatened to delay (not stop) delivering. It used them to wreck Gaza City, most of the refugee camps in the central area and Khan Younis. It has more than enough in its arsenals to completely flatten Rafah.

Third, Israeli forces are now in control of the Salaheddin (Philadelphia) corridor along the border with Egypt. This breaks the commitments Israel made to Biden and violates the Camp David and subsequent Oslo accords — both of which were signed at the White House with U.S. guarantees to the Egyptian and Palestinian sides respectively.

Fourth, Netanyahu and Biden have been in agreement about every step in the war on Gaza. The U.S. president never called for a ceasefire and described Israel’s war of extermination as “self-defence.” He never halted any arms supplies to Israel over the course of seven months, and rewarded it with a gift of $26 billion in financial support — much to the ire and envy of Ukrainian president Zelensky.

Fifth, if Biden’s dispute with Netanyahu were serious, he would have taken practical measures to assert his position — for example by disengaging from the truce talks in Cairo. How can those talks continue under U.S. sponsorship after Israel went into Rafah, and Hamas accepted the U.S.-amended draft agreement while Netanyahu’s government rejected it?

Biden’s posturing

So Biden’s posturing should not fool anyone. There was a prior agreement between the U.S. and Israel on invading the Gaza Strip and deliberately inflicting mass death and destruction to turn the population against Hamas and force it to surrender.

But the steadfastness of Palestinian fighters, continuing public support, and skilled management of the war, as well as Israel’s failure to achieve any of its declared objectives, confounded these calculations. Instead, the two allies ended up triggering a student revolt in the U.S., and turning Zionism into an object of worldwide revulsion.

Biden earlier threatened to suspend arms supplies to Israel in protest at its drone assassination of seven employees of the Central Kitchen aid organisation. He also said he would sanction four Israeli army settler units for committing acts of terrorism against Palestinians in the West Bank. Of course he proceeded to do nothing in either case.

Being tough is not the same as talking loud. Tough action is best taken quietly. We have examples of U.S. presidents doing as they said. In 1956, Eisenhower forced the UK and France to end their occupation of the Suez Canal and ordered Israeli forces out of the Gaza Strip. In the early 1990s, George W. Bush Sr. withheld loan guarantees to Israel to force its Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to attend the Madrid peace conference.

RAFAH, GAZA – MAY 09: Following the Israeli army’s ground incursions into certain neighborhoods east of Rafah, located in the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinians residing in the area continue to migrate from the eastern neighborhoods of the city towards the west of Khan Yunis on May 09, 2024. ( Ashraf Amra – Anadolu Agency )

Biden, who loudly proclaims his Zionist convictions and passionate support for Israel, is not of the same mettle as those leaders. He quakes in fear of Netanyahu, who humiliated him and his boss Barack Obama when they were in office, and goes over their heads to address an adoring U.S. Congress without even asking them.

The presence of a single Israeli soldier in Rafah in defiance of Biden and his sponsorship of the Cairo talks should have been enough to trigger sanctions against Netanyahu and his government if only to uphold the U.S.’s honour. But Biden has no shame. If all his talk of the need to protect civilians were remotely sincere, he would not have allowed Israel to destroy the Gaza Strip’s hospitals and slaughter more than 35,000 of its inhabitants, mostly women and children.

Netanyahu enjoys snubbing and humiliating Biden. He did that once again by vowing to invade Rafah to destroy four Hamas brigades he claimed were based there.

But most likely Palestinian fighters will have surprises in store and lessons to teach him, which may give him sleepless nights for the rest of his life, even when he ends up behind bars.

The attack on the Israeli military outpost at Kam Abu-Salem the day before the invasion of Rafah began, in which five soldiers were killed and 14 injured, was a warning of what awaits him and his troops in Rafah.

Israeli forces withdrew from Khan Younis after sustaining heavy losses over the course of four months. The losses they stand to sustain in Rafah will be far greater, and they will end up withdrawing again.

This article was first published in Raialyoum.

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