President Joe Biden holds a Cabinet meeting, Monday, October 2, 2023 President Joe Biden holds a Cabinet meeting, Monday, October 2, 2023. Photo: The White House / Flickr

Unconditional US support for Israel is coming under more pressure than ever before, but the solidarity movement for Palestine must continue to build its momentum, argues John Clarke

Last year, US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, caused some dismay in liberal Zionist circles when he spoke at the J Street Conference. This organisation, though entirely supportive of Israel, dared to suggest that the US should be working to contain the right-wing course of the Netanyahu government. J Street president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, criticised the perspective that ‘the US should continue to provide billions of dollars without restrictions or oversight and protect Israel from any accountability in international institutions.’

When Blinken got his turn at the podium, he huffily dismissed these concerns, declaring that ‘security assistance to Israel is sacrosanct.’ In no uncertain terms, he let his critics know that the Biden administration would continue to arm the Zionist state regardless of whatever brutality it unleashed.

Put to the test

A little less than a year later, Blinken finds this position of unflinching support for Israel put to a more severe test than he could have imagined. The genocidal assault on Gaza that is underway is generating an international crisis and threatens to unleash extended conflict in the Middle East and beyond. Accordingly, Blinken has been piling up air miles in a round of shuttle diplomacy to try and contain the impact of what is unfolding.

Just a few weeks ago, the Biden administration was busy trying to sell the concept of ‘normalisation’ between Israel and a number of Arab states. At this moment, however, the bombardment of Gaza has the entire MENA region seething with anger, and even thoroughly collaborationist Arab leaders must tread carefully.

On 4 November, Blinken met with the ‘foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia, and the secretary of the Palestine Liberation Organization’ in Amman, Jordan. Their meeting was billed as a wide ranging consideration of ‘all the repercussions and ways to end this dangerous deterioration that threatens the security of the entire region.’ The appearance of constructive discourse notwithstanding, it is clear that considerable tensions were playing out at the gathering.

The Jordanian Foreign Ministry made clear that it was working with a number of regional counterparts ‘to stop the Israeli war on Gaza and the humanitarian catastrophe it is causing.’ For his part, Blinken came to Amman fresh from a meeting with Netanyahu. Whatever private deliberations were part of their discussions, the secretary of state wanted to publicly assert that ‘the U.S. insists that the conflict not spill over to a second or third front, and called on Israel to take steps to protect civilians in Gaza.’

Decisively, however, Blinken also wanted it be understood that his administration feels that ‘a cease-fire will allow Hamas to regroup and attack Israel.’ His meeting with the Arab foreign ministers, then, couldn’t avoid an impasse on the matter of ending Israel’s murderous assault and Washington’s determination to let it proceed.

Without doubt, the Biden administration would like to see Palestinian resistance subdued, Israel’s hand strengthened, and its own regional position shored up without matters going over to an extended conflagration. Nonetheless, its dread for the prospect of an extended regional conflict offers no guarantee that it won’t be drawn into one. US military forces have been deployed in the hope that the threat they pose will be sufficient, but no one can be sure of the outcome of the very risky game that is underway. What does seem clear is that neither Washington nor the Netanyahu regime have any well thought out plan in place.

The Biden administration hopes it can get away with enabling the killing and destruction in Gaza without larger-scale conflict, but it appears at this point that the first consideration is dominant. In late October, ‘US officials said they are asking Israel “tough” questions about its military operation in Gaza, including what the war’s long-term objectives are. However, Washington’s own endgame remains largely undefined.’

Both the US and Israel speak in terms of eliminating Hamas but, whatever horrors they unleash, the possibility of achieving this is very much in question. Biden has opposed the permanent direct reoccupation of Gaza by Israel and notions of transferring its population are hugely uncertain and fraught with appalling potential consequences.

So, for ‘now, the Biden administration is allowing Israel to carry out its intense bombing campaign [and] US officials have ruled out even discussing a ceasefire, saying that those conversations would ultimately benefit Hamas.’ The dangerous situation exists where the ‘US objective in supporting Israel is undefined to some extent because Israel’s own objectives in Gaza are undefined.’

As this improvised approach plays out, thousands die in Gaza, while support for Israel’s continuing assault is reduced to a clique of Western imperialist states. As if to advertise the fragility of the situation, Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, let the side down badly on a visit to Washington, when he haplessly declared that we ‘need to see a cease-, we need to see a humanitarian pause so we can flow, we need ceasing of the levels of violence that we’re seeing.’

Meanwhile, opposition to the present course continues to gather momentum. ‘U.N. agencies and international charities issued a rare joint statement calling for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire as the death toll mounts.’ It expresses a clear sense that an utter catastrophe is unfolding that must be brought to an end as a matter of extreme urgency. It declares that the ‘horrific killings of even more civilians in Gaza is an outrage, as is cutting off 2.2 million Palestinians from food, water, medicine, electricity and fuel.’

Dire crisis

The international tensions at work have now prompted a number of countries to take action. Honduras, Chile and Colombia have recalled their ambassadors to Israel and Bolivia has actually severed diplomatic relations, accusing Israel of ‘crimes against humanity’ in Gaza. South Africa has recalled its entire diplomatic mission to Israel, openly accusing its government of genocide.

At the same time, protests and disruptive actions challenging the killing in Gaza have spread across the globe and are growing in scale. It is clear that the US-led group of Western powers that allow the slaughter in Gaza to continue are isolated internationally and face huge opposition within their own populations.

As Israel’s assault continues, ‘the US has provided Israel with ammunition, replenishing its supply of air-defense rockets … Last week, the US House of Representatives approved a $14 billion military aid package to Israel in addition to the annual aid supplied by the US.’ If we add to this the vital political cover Washington provides, it is no wonder that Eran Ezion, former deputy head of Israel’s National Security Council, has noted that ‘Israel’s political and military dependence on the US was highlighted in this conflict.

Blinken tries to divert attention from the fact that Israel’s crimes are underwritten by the US. He stated at a recent press conference in Tel Aviv that there ‘will be no partners for peace if they’re consumed by humanitarian catastrophe and alienated by any perceived indifference to their plight.’ Yet, he is as culpable in that ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ as Israel’s political and military leaders, and the world knows it.

As the death toll climbs in Gaza and the suffering increases horribly, the reckless criminality that is at work, bringing with it the threat of even more terrible consequences, must be countered by the demand for a ceasefire. Beyond this, however, the momentum that has been generated must go over to a sustained movement of international solidarity to support the struggle for a free Palestine.

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John Clarke

John Clarke became an organiser with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty when it was formed in 1990 and has been involved in mobilising poor communities under attack ever since.

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