The Israel-Palestine war is Washington’s fault
The administration of US President Joe Biden, together with decades of failed American policy decisions in West Asia, set the stage for the eruption of the horrifying violence we see today in Palestine and Israel. By sidelining the Palestinian cause for statehood and instead seeking a symbolic normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, Washington also overlooked its own regional strategy.
In the early hours of Saturday morning, the armed wing of Hamas, the Qassam Brigades, launched an unprecedented military operation against Israel. Scenes instantly flooded social media of Palestinian fighters gunning down Israelis in cities such as Ashkelon, blowing up military vehicles, and killing and capturing hundreds of Israeli soldiers. It was a surprise offensive the likes of which hadn’t been seen in over 50 years. It also represented a colossal failure for the Israeli government, military, and intelligence and security services, causing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to declare war on the Gaza Strip.
In the US, condemnation of the attack was unanimous and bipartisan, as elected officials expressed their outrage at the loss of Israeli life. However, in all of these statements, not a single one recognized their own government's role in the attack. Washington, along with most of the collective West, has been imposing sanctions on the Palestinian Authority (PA) for nearly 17 years. The peace process between Israelis and Palestinians – aimed at reaching a ‘two-state solution’ whereby Israel and Palestine would exist side by side as independent, mutually-recognized states – has been effectively dead for around two decades, with the last failed attempt to pressure the Israeli government to negotiate coming under former US President Barack Obama.
In 2006, the legislative elections held in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) resulted in a landslide victory for Hamas. Failed US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was recorded as having stated at the time that “we [the US] should have made sure that we did something to determine who was going to win.” While the US did not interfere, the American government decided it would sanction Gaza and cut off the flow of aid to the PA after the elections did not favor the Fatah Party it was financing.
Former US President Jimmy Carter, who brokered the 1979 Camp David Accords, an agreement that normalized relations between Egypt and Israel, said the following about the approach of the US government at the time: “If you sponsor an election or promote democracy and freedom around the world, then when people make their own decision about their leaders, I think that all the governments should recognize that administration and let them form their government.”
Not only did Washington actively oppose the democratic elections in the OPT, it went a step further and provided arms to Palestinians from the Fatah Party, plotting a coup that would use them to overthrow the Hamas government that was formed inside Gaza. The plan failed dramatically and Hamas kicked Fatah out of Gaza after a bloody civil war, completely taking over the territory, to which the Israeli government responded by imposing an all-inclusive military blockade.
Unlike other global powers such as Russia and China, the US never entertained the idea of giving Hamas the chance to govern as Carter had suggested. Instead, every American government has refused to engage with Hamas, deeming it a terrorist organization, but then ignoring the Palestinian political party completely and not formulating any solution to the situation that has been ongoing inside Gaza. In fact, the US government considers every single major Palestinian political party or movement as a terrorist organization, other than the mainstream branch of Fatah that partially controls the West Bank.
The Declaration of Principles, the first agreement in the Oslo Accords, was signed on the White House lawn over 30 years ago. The accords were supposed to solve the conflict in a span of five years, but failed due to America’s inability to function as a truly neutral peace broker. During the administration of US President Donald Trump, Washington abandoned the two-state solution altogether, through the pursuance of normalization deals between Arab nations and Israel. The issue of Palestinian statehood, which the UN agrees should be solved through a two-state solution, was sidelined as a non-issue and the one bargaining chip possessed by the Palestinians, Arab-Israeli normalization, began to be taken off of the table.
How did the Palestinian political parties respond to normalization in 2018? They overwhelmingly chose non-violent struggle, including in Gaza, where Hamas endorsed the ‘Great March of Return’, a mass protest movement which lasted around a year. Most of the protesters were peaceful, but it was the relatively small groups of Palestinians committing sabotage and anti-Israeli aggression at the border fence that made the news. In response, Israeli forces killed hundreds of Palestinians and injured almost 10,000. On the Israeli side, there was not a single dead soldier or civilian, while Israeli snipers targeted women, children, journalists, disabled people, and medical workers, according to a UN human rights report on the demonstrations. How did the US react to hundreds of thousands of unarmed Palestinian protesters marching on the separation fence between Gaza and Israel? It ignored them and continued to pursue Arab-Israeli normalization.
Under the Biden administration, the two-state solution was also sidelined and the plight of Palestinians was ignored as insignificant. Instead of seeking a solution to the violence which has been steadily escalating to levels not seen in 20 years, during the course of the past two years – especially in the West Bank – Biden has chosen to look the other way and has pursued Saudi-Israeli normalization instead. A deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel would also have the potential to collapse the Iranian-Saudi rapprochement, brokered earlier this year by China, in addition to potentially dragging Washington into an open confrontation with Yemen. Instead of seeking to fulfill the foreign policy pledges made at the start of his term in office, Biden has abandoned the idea of reviving the Iran nuclear deal and of ending the war in Yemen. He also decided to try and inflict a death blow on the Palestinian cause for statehood.
What Hamas just did from Gaza would never have happened if the US had pursued a somewhat rational approach to the region. It could even have been prevented if the US had presented a political plan to de-escalate rising tensions in the occupied territories. Instead, the American government decided to overlook the armed groups in Gaza while attempting to completely dismantle their cause. And all of this for what? A fancy photo op that Biden can use to steer the Democratic Party to victory in the presidential election in 2024, by claiming that he brought peace to the Middle East. Due to the current conflict, normalization doesn’t seem to be on the table anytime soon anyway, which would mean Hamas’ offensive has not only dealt a blow to Israel, but also to the US.
Now that Israel is at war with Gaza, what is the US doing? It is condemning one side, while arming Israel and greenlighting any action it takes. Initially, Washington even refused to urge a ceasefire, in contrast to the push for one from Moscow and Beijing. The White House refuses to acknowledge its role in creating the current violence and carries on with the exact same rhetoric and policy decisions that led to the horrifying war we see today.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.