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In Dealing With Gaza, Biden and Schumer Are Not Moving the Needle 

posted on: Mar 27, 2024

By: Ghassan Rubeiz / Arab America Contributing Writer

On March 25, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution demanding an immediate, lasting ceasefire and the release of October 7 hostages. The Resolution was not vetoed this time by the US; Washington offered an abstention vote. Israel’s officials were upset by this turn of events. The UNSC action is largely symbolic but it will have an impact. Time will tell. After yesterday’s UNSC ceasefire vote, Washington is eager to calm down Prime Minister Netanyahu saying: we have not changed our policy on Gaza.

Last week I analyzed the significance of Senator Charles Schumer’s speech which criticized Netanyahu’s conduct in Gaza war and Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land. We soon observed that Schumer’s voice has been ignored in Israel. Netanyahu insists on defeating Hamas militarily. He persists in his plans to launch a ground-operation on the most vulnerable displaced population of Rafah. 

Schumer’s candid criticism allowed Netanyahu to receive support from the Republican House Majority Leader Mike Johnson. Johnson invited Netanyahu to deliver a speech to a group of Republicans in Washington DC. In a virtual speech, Netanyahu defended his intentions to finish with Hamas in Rafah, where over one million displaced Gazans are sheltering in tents. The Israeli prime minister criticized Schumer and revealed his closeness to the Republicans. Schumer received backlash from Israel and the US- from Republicans and from mainline Jewish Americans. Schumer had to somewhat walk back his rebuke of Netanyahu by “welcoming” him to speak at a possible bi-partisan congressional event.

The response to Schumer’s speech in Israel revealed how irrelevant the voice of the highest elected Jewish American leader is to Israel’s policies in the current political climate. 

Ignoring established US policy on the illegality of Israeli settlements, last week the Israeli government announced its plan for the seizure of about 2000 acres of Palestinian land in the northern section of the Jordan valley area of the West Bank. 

Schumer’s failure to make a dent in Israel’s current conduct in Gaza and the West Bank, reflects that the growing rift between the US and Israel is not simply a personal confrontation between President Biden and Senator Schumer with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Personal relationships between US and Israeli leaders do not necessarily alter the course of diplomacy between Washington and Jerusalem. Regardless of how angry Biden or Schumer are with Netanyahu, momentarily, American politicians hesitate to take any punitive measures against a strong and privileged US ally like Israel.  

US State Department’s spokesmen back up its top diplomats with tentative and subjective evidence. Recently the State Department declared that Israel is “in compliance” with US law on matters of war conduct and provisions of aid in Gaza. (

Biden’s presidential team seems to be in charge of steering the wheels of foreign policy. His personal bias toward Israel and his insecurity, as a president, makes it possible for his hawkish team to take over. Our president is weak and getting weaker with Gaza’s tragic developments.

President Biden’s Insecurity

The majority of Americans disapprove of Biden’s performance. He is running neck and neck with the worst possible presidential Republican rival: Donald Trump. Biden is competing with a presumptive GOP candidate who is totally sold on Israel, anti-Palestinian and openly hateful of Muslims.

His rhetoric about the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza no longer sounds sincere.  We have heard the President describe Netanyahu as a dangerous leader; he has warned the cabinet not to be carried away in a likely regional war; he has acknowledged US regrets for its reflexive retaliation in Iraq and elsewhere. Yet Biden has not taken any action to discourage Israel’s slaughter of Palestinians. He has blamed Israel for slowing humanitarian aid to a starving population, yet he has stopped funding UNRWA, the largest and most effective United Nations organization for Palestinians refugees. The limitations of Biden are not purely temperamental and personal ; the president is surrounded by key staff which sometimes works against his interests or intentions. 

A Dangerous Divide in Congress and a Split in Democratic Party

The President is made weaker by sharing power with a sharply divided, incompetent Congress and an ideological split in the Democratic Party. The more Biden puts pressure on Israel, the more he faces opposition from the Republican Party. While Biden tries to win the Arab American vote, he is extra cautious not to alienate Jewish Americans- whose majority votes Democrat. He walks a tight diplomatic rope toward the November electionsThe weakness of the president allows ample space for the dominance of a hawkish presidential team, one which favors Israel and confuses national struggle for independence with terrorism. 

Three presidential staff members stand out: Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jack Sullivan, and Deputy Assistant to President Biden Brett McGurk, all three, seem to have a dominant voice in the way the White House runs its affairs. (Canadian Dimension)

Like other members in Biden’s closed circle, Secretary Blinken considers Israel an anchor of stability in the Middle East. When Biden sat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, during the G.W Bush presidency, Blinken advised Biden to push for the invasion of Iraq. Blinken talks softly but deep down, he is tough and combative. He approves of the maximal use of force to defend America’s “democracy”. With such a perspective, it is natural to support Netanyahu’s reckless war- supposedly in the defense of Israel’s security and its “democracy”.

According to Hedges, Jack Sullivan has a shallow understanding of the region’s priorities. In a strongly critical article of Biden and his team, former Middle East Bureau Chief of the New York Times, Chris Hedges comments on Sullivan with these words: While not focused on the Middle East, Sullivan is a foreign policy hawk who has a knee jerk embrace of force to shape the world to US demands. He embraces military Keynesianism, arguing that massive government spending on the weapons industry benefits the domestic economy.

Together with Blinken, Sullivan has been active in trying to lure Saudi Arabia to join the Abraham Accords. He is adamant that the best way to pacify Palestinian resistance is by integrating Israel in the region, specifically through a Saudi- Israeli pact. 

An expert on counterterrorism, Brett McGurk has little understanding of Arab culture. He is keen on finishing with Hamas, at any cost. His record in Iraq during the Maliki regime shows a divisive sectarian bent of mind. His support of Maliki fuelled tension between Iraq’s Shiite and Sunnite factions.

The lack of appreciation of the Biden team for resistance movements underlies their rigid diplomacy, narrow understanding of national security and reflexive strategy toward “terrorism”.  Actually, many resistance movements are flawed by one factor or another, but their handicaps should not necessarily disqualify their cause or justify countering their terror with greater terror. The “imperative” that Hamas must be eradicated is not only impossible; it is unjustifiable because Hamas, as a movement, stands for Palestinian independence. Many feel that Hamas is not serving the Palestinian cause; even if this assumption is sound, collective punishment of Palestinians for Hamas’ unacceptable action is not defendable. 

If we apply a zero-tolerance policy for any Islamic resistance movement, imagine what such a policy would imply for dealing with the aggression of the fanatic Jewish movements in the West Bank and their allies in the US Christian Zionist movement.

Gaza is turning to be Israel’s Vietnam. The US has proven to be the wrong advisor for Israel in dealing with national security threats.

Ghassan Rubeiz is the former Middle East Secretary of the World Council of Churches. Earlier he taught psychology and social work in his country of birth, Lebanon, and later in the United States, where he currently lives. For the past twenty years, he has contributed to political commentary and delivered occasional public talks on subjects related to peace, justice, and interfaith. You can reach him at

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Arab America. The reproduction of this article is permissible with proper credit to Arab America and the author.

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