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Biden and Netanyahu

Biden and Netanyahu. Photo: US Embassy Tel Aviv / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0, license linked at bottom of article

Biden’s uncompromising defence of Israel while it kills Palestinians shatters any myths of a progressive President, argues John Westmoreland

Some on the left have been willing to see Joe Biden as a progressive president that will lead the way to a more liberal and united America. Much of the excitement is based on the notion that Biden will offer a welcome alternative to Trump.

For Biden enthusiasts the fact that he has already rolled back many of Trump's restrictions on hundreds of millions of dollars in US aid to the Palestinians is encouraging. But, he has said he will not reverse Trump's boldest, and most disastrous, diplomatic moves, such as his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. 

There should be no equivocation. Trump openly supported the creation of a Jewish-supremacist state that would obliterate the rights of Palestinians and erase their claims to be a people. This ruled out any negotiations over illegal settlements; conditions in Gaza; or the occupied territories.

Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’, the Abraham Accords, between Israel and some US client dictatorships was a deal agreed over the bodies of Palestinians. Israel’s apartheid policies were sanitised as ‘security measures’ and as such they could be implemented more confidently. It was, as Shabbir Lakha has said, “a catastrophe for the Palestinians.”  

Trump and Netanyahu wanted, and thought they had achieved, a deal that would last forever, bullet-proofed from an incoming administration in Washington. They arrogantly assumed that the Palestinians would be forced to succumb to the plan, and could be steadily removed and negated.

The ironic thing is that Trump and Netanyahu’s deal made a life and death protest by Palestinians inevitable. Instead of slinking away, the Palestinians are taking the fight to Israel and have mobilised solidarity on a world-wide scale.

It is true that it would be difficult for Biden to reverse Trump’s disastrous interventions, but that is not his plan anyway. He simply cannot let Israel lose. This is not, as some people argue, because US foreign policy is led by the Israel lobby. In fact US Jews are increasingly turning against Israel. The answer is that Israel is the centrepiece of US foreign policy in the Middle East, aimed at controlling the flow of Arab oil, and keeping Russia and China out of the picture.

After speaking to Netanyahu last week Biden came out strongly in defence of Israel: “Israel has a right to defend itself against thousands of rockets flying into [their] territory.” He has refused to say anything about the Palestinians. But then Biden has a long-standing inability to acknowledge Palestinian rights.

A clip that has been recently circulating of a younger Senator Biden speaking in 1986 has caused outrage. Biden said then, that if there was no Israel,

“the USA would have to invent an Israel to protect our interests ... There is no apology to be made, none. It is the best $3 billion investment we make.”

This blows all the rhetoric about the US working towards a ‘negotiated solution’ to the Israel-Palestine ‘conflict’ out of the water. What drives Israel’s colonialist and apartheid policies? Uncle Sam - and Biden is not about to change that!

The US gives Israel $3.1 billion a year in military aid, and it is the biggest recipient of both US aid and military equipment. On Monday, despite the rising death toll, Biden approved a $735 million sale of precision-guided weapons.

The US and Israel regularly conduct joint military operations, and the US has stockpiled military equipment in Israel. The US Navy’s Sixth Fleet uses the Israeli port of Haifa as its main port of call in the eastern Mediterranean. In 2017, it opened its first official permanent military base in the country.

The truth is not just that we can expect very little from Biden, it is that the office of the President of the United States is there to defend American imperial interests at all costs. A change of personnel might mean a change of emphasis, but that’s all.

Any retreat on Israel’s colonialist right to oppress the Palestinians could set off a chain reaction that would seriously challenge US global reach. Trump’s strategy of front foot diplomacy against China and Russia is not going to be unravelled by Biden, who is a true neocon on foreign policy.

When Biden blocked the UN from meeting to discuss the massacring of Palestinians this week, he was only doing what every President since the founding of Israel has done.

UN impotence exposed

The United Nations, despite many resolutions against Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land, cannot uphold international law as long as the US uses its power of veto. The US has vetoed motions of censure against Israel and in defence of Palestinian rights 43 times since 1948, and it can get away with this because it is the world’s dominant military power.

It is no use hoping that international law can be used to defend the Palestinians when the US can break the law at will. However, the contempt for international justice displayed by Israel and the US is galvanising attitudes in favour of Palestinian solidarity. The worldwide political order is being exposed by Palestinian testimony of Israel’s criminality and the UN’s impotence to bring justice.

In fact, Israel’s war on Palestine is having the effect of mobilising democratic forces across the world. The USA is increasingly understood as an imperialist power, cradled in the blood of indigenous Indian tribes, and finding common purpose with murderers of the same stamp – in Colombia, in Brazil, in Israel.

We are all Palestinians

Solidarity with Palestine is creating a democratic international force against imperialism. There was an amazing turnout in support of Palestine across the UK, Europe and the USA. We identify with the Palestinians. The Palestinians, by fighting back and giving the world vital testimony about Israeli atrocities in Gaza, the West Bank and within the occupied territories is a beacon for all those fighting oppression.

The support given to Israel in the media cannot stand when Israel’s crimes in Jerusalem and Gaza are exposed. The mechanical and unflinching repetition of meaningless phrases by journalists in defence of the apartheid state is not working. There is the very real danger for the ruling class that connections are made between a lying media, and a corrupt political establishment. Demonstrations in support of Palestine can in turn mobilise demonstrations against other injustices.

Biden’s unequivocal support for Israel is hardening the left and weakening the right in the UK and elsewhere. The weaponisation of antisemitism used to discipline Labour under Corbyn will not work now. Kier Starmer looks like a lost lamb compared to Jeremy Corbyn’s rousing speech at the London demonstration of some 150,000. The UK’s role of international US poodle is being challenged too.

The stakes are very high for Biden. We might expect some attempts at intervention involving Israel and US allies in the Middle East that are feeling threatened by what might well turn into another Intifada. But Biden has no choice but to try and tough it out.

Yossi Mekelberg, a Middle East expert, summed up Biden’s dilemma to a NBC journalist:

"I think what happened in the last 72 hours might cause some rethink in Washington. Conditions are ripe for a third intifada, or Palestinian uprising. And US officials may decide that, hey, this place is too crazy to leave it on its own — we need to do something."

But the craziness is not in Palestine, it is right here. The US and UK’s arming of Israel, when those arms are being used to deliberately slaughter innocent civilians, and with the world watching, shows that craziness is the policy.

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John Westmoreland

John Westmoreland

John is a history teacher and UCU rep. He is an active member of the People's Assembly and writes regularly for Counterfire.

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