Palestinians in Gaza, October 2023. Palestinians in Gaza, October 2023. Photo: Wikimedia commons

The US is caught between its continued support for its closest ally in the Middle East and its growing isolation as a result writes Chris Nineham 

After voting three times against United Nations resolutions calling for a ceasefire in the Middle East, the US actually proposed one on Friday and was humiliatingly defeated in the vote.

The Russian, Chinese and Algerian delegates voted against it because it didn’t demand an immediate ceasefire, saying only that a ceasefire was ‘imperative’. They also pointed out that the resolution tied calls for a ceasefire closely to the release of Israeli hostages rather than calling for an unconditional end to the fighting. Their absolutely correct implication was that the US wanted to be seen to be calling for peace without actually doing so.

This move perfectly illustrates the dilemmas for the US ruling class in the current crisis. The truth is, despite the endless diplomatic manoeuvres and complex commentary, the US could end the immediate misery of the Palestinian people in one stroke by simply stopping its supply of weapons to the country.

Israel is the US number one ally in the Middle East. It receives more US military and other aid than any other country in the world because the US relies on it to protect its interests in the oil rich region. 

This is why, as ever, the US has allowed Israel free rein in Gaza from the start, leading to the most catastrophic slaughter and now a desperate deliberately engineered famine. 

Collective punishment

Now the US has come up against two very serious problems. The first is that the current Israeli cabinet is the most right wing ever. It is a government that has taken unconditional US support to its logical conclusion. A string of Israeli government ministers have openly stated that the aim of the military campaign is collective punishment or even driving Palestinians out of Gaza altogether. 

Partly because of the US’s declining power in the world, they no longer care about US leaders’ political sensibilities and they are not prepared to play the game of bowing to US pressure. Prime Minister Netanyahu proved this again on Friday when he came out of a war cabinet meeting at which US Secretary of State Blinken urged restraint and said that Israel would go ahead with the attack on Rafah with or without US support. 

The second problem for the US is that, as a result of this, Israel is more and more isolated in the world. It may be winning militarily but it is losing catastrophically on the political front. Britain is the only major player prepared to back the US to the hilt at the UN. Another resolution from the non-permanent members of the UN Security Council is being put to the vote probably on Monday, unconditionally calling for a ceasefire. If the US and Britain oppose it they will once again be seen to be standing alone in the world in defence of genocide. 


Meanwhile the mass movement in solidarity with the Palestinians continues. As the reality of life in Gaza becomes more and more unbearable the movement is gaining more and more traction and popular opinion is turning more and more against Israel.  A global survey in January showed that popular support for Israel had fallen by an average of 18% between September and December in 43 countries last year, and it was already very low in many of them. 

The US is the only rich country that still has a net positive view of Israel, and the numbers are falling in the US too, particularly amongst younger people. 

The impact of all this on the perception of the US around the world is disastrous. As one commentator put it in Time magazine:

‘Washington’s support for Israel carries a cost in global public opinion…particularly in Arab countries, the surveys show. In Egypt, the US went from having a positive favourability of 41.1 to a negative favourability of -14.9 from September to December. In Saudi Arabia, the US saw a similar trend’. 

After a string of disastrous wars in the Middle East, a humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan and facing an unwinnable war in Ukraine, the US’s unequivocal support for Israel is proving to be another nightmare for a declining superpower.  

The US and its closest ally Britain are caught. They are desperate not to turn openly against their most important ally in the Middle East, but they are paying a terrible price for maintaining their support. 

This is a situation in which the already powerful international solidarity movement can make a decisive difference. 

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Chris Nineham

Chris Nineham is a founder member of Stop the War and Counterfire, speaking regularly around the country on behalf of both. He is author of The People Versus Tony Blair and Capitalism and Class Consciousness: the ideas of Georg Lukacs.

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