Events of the past week have highlighted how the US’ feckless indulgent behavior toward Israel’s policies have damaged America’s standing in the world. Two United Nations votes calling for a ceasefire in Gaza have shown the US abandoned by most of our closest allies, with many increasingly questioning our global leadership.
After more than two months, Israel’s relentless pummeling of Palestinians in Gaza continues, with the death toll reaching nearly 20,000, mostly civilians. Israel’s bombing in northern Gaza reduced more than one-half of it to rubble, while forcing almost 2 million Palestinians to flee their homes.
After the short humanitarian pause for exchanges of hostages and captives, Israel shifted its bombing campaign to the south where daily orders call for Palestinians to move from one area to another, only to bomb the areas to which they’ve ordered relocation. In the south’s make-shift camps, hunger is rampant, as is disease. A humanitarian disaster is being compounded by Israel’s behavior that can only be described as genocidal.
Facing the enormity of this crisis, last week the UAE Mission to the UN introduced a resolution in the Security Council calling for a humanitarian ceasefire. The resolution was endorsed by a record- total 103 co-sponsoring countries. Disturbingly, the US used the time before the vote expending considerable political capital to urge others to vote “no.”
They failed, and the final vote reflected the extent of US isolation—13 for the ceasefire, the US against, and the United Kingdom abstaining. Further evidence of America’s isolation came a day later when a non-binding ceasefire resolution introduced in the General Assembly received 153 votes, with the US and just nine other countries voting “no”.
The US explained its veto and “no” vote by saying the resolution was rushed through without enough time for consultation. This was patently and embarrassingly false as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has been two months in the making and the UAE resolution had been circulating for days, allowing ample time for discussion. Instead of negotiating, the US focused on arm twisting to countries to join its opposition. What’s clear to the world is the Biden administration’s unwillingness to call for a ceasefire.
Two other factors amplify this conclusion. One day after the UN votes, the Biden White House announced its unilateral decision to ship 14,000 artillery shells to Israel without first notifying Congress. In other words, they didn’t have enough time to consider a ceasefire, but needed no time at all to send more deadly weapons to Israel in violation of required congressional oversight established by the Arms Export Control Act.
At a recent White House Hanukkah gathering, President Biden spoke glowingly about his love for Israel, its right to defend itself, and the US pledge to always stand with Israel. He then pivoted to what appeared to be criticism of Israel’s conduct of the war and its “indiscriminate bombing” in Gaza.
Before anyone could imagine this represented a turning point, the next day one administration spokesperson “played down” the president’s remarks, while another suggested that Israel was being more careful and targeted in its renewed bombing campaign in the south.
Instead of seriously addressing the massive loss of Palestinian life and desperate conditions under which survivors have been forced to live, the US continues to prioritize Israel’s fantasy military objective of “eliminating Hamas.” Thus, US policymakers deem calls for a ceasefire as disruptive.
I am reminded of a conversation with a top Biden administration official a few weeks into this war. He remarked, echoing Israel’s lines, that a “ceasefire would be intolerable since it would only give Hamas time to rearm.” When I recounted the deaths and devastation of Gaza, he said “that too is intolerable.” I replied, “So there are two ‘intolerables’ and you’ve picked the one that continues to cost more Palestinian lives.”
That exchange occurred when the death toll in Gaza was 3,000. Now it’s nearing 20,000, and the world and a significant portion of US opinion are wearying of Israel’s war and US support for it. The administration is damaging US standing and credibility and our self-proclaimed values and principles. While American and worldwide public opinion of Israeli behavior is shifting, US policy is stuck and increasingly isolated.