Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :
Eyad Abu Shakra

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : The Limits of the Biden-Netanyahu ‘Dispute’... Above the Rubble of Rafah

I am still uncertain about the implications of US President Joe Biden’s decision to suspend “advanced weapons” to Israel in response to the defiance of Benjamin Netanyahu and his “war cabinet,” who have ignored Washington’s “requests” that they refrain from invading the city of Rafah.
Frankly, I am not sure that President Biden has finally “toughened up”... after running out of patience with Israel’s blatant disregard for Washington’s interests, and I am not saying its feelings. Netanyahu’s intransigence and arrogance have impelled him to perpetuate the displacement and genocide and push it all the way to the edge of the Gaza Strip...
I say this because I am very well aware of the kind of administration Joe Biden leads. I have no doubt that the “Israel lobby” dominates the bodies, figures, and networks of influence and funding over the Democratic and Republican parties.
Accordingly, I believe it is highly unlikely that the White House has not received “advice” from several “key figures” tied to the administration justifying Israel’s crimes since the start of this displacement war. In my opinion, they have certainly warned Biden that he is dealing with an influential force. It exercises near-total control over both Chambers of Congress, meaning that it would be crazy to clash with it - or even criticize it- the year of a presidential election.
Indeed, I heard and read, as others have, Netanyahu’s recent statement. With typical overbearing arrogance, he challenged the decision to suspend arms shipments, declaring that it would change nothing. “If we have to stand alone, we will stand alone. If we need to, we will fight with our fingernails.” We also heard John Bolton, a veteran conservative right-wing hawk, claim that Biden’s decision to suspend arms shipments could cost him the presidential election next November.
Thus, I believe that a few factors may have encouraged the American President to take the risk of adopting this kind of “stance” at this time- that in my estimation, will have no impact- the most prominent of which are the following:
1- The willingness of Republican politicians to outbid him. No matter how excessive President Biden’s defense of Israel’s position becomes, Donald Trump and other Republican Party leaders have not hesitated and will never hesitate to outbid him. This is apparent not only because of the policies of Trump that reflected Likud's dreams during his presidency but also from the statements that the former president and several of those aspiring to work with him (or replace him if he was unable to run the November elections) have made.
2- The student uprising on university campuses across the US, from the Far East to the Far West, has challenged the stagnation. This “intifada” has effectively shaken the Israeli narrative that had monopolized the political arena for a long time, especially since the scenes of massacres and terrible destruction have been streamed daily, hour by hour, reaching every home in the US and the West.
3- The Israeli far-right has “regurgitated” increasingly aggressive, brazen, and racist speeches since October. Extremist ministers Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, as well as the rabid settler leaders, have made provocative statements that alienated all neutral or moderate observers. It has had a real negative impact on many in the West (both the US and Europe) who refused to blindly endorse the lie of “Israel’s right to defend itself” that has been promoted by Israeli propaganda and its psychological warfare campaign... Israel has entrusted its defense to a network of organizations it controls, some of which are bodies of major parties and media institutions.
4- Arab and regional considerations in the Middle East. Here, observers find a direct conflict of interest between two allies. The superpower, the United States, has multifaceted considerations, friendships, and hostilities in this extremely sensitive region of the world. Its calculus has been complicated further by the expansion of Chinese and Indian interests across the region, and the geopolitical reality that Russia has created in the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains. The regional power, Israel, has a lot of influence within the American establishment, and it couldn't care less about undermining Washington’s interests with the other regional players (the Arabs, Türkiye, and Iran). On the contrary, Israel's objective is to "monopolize" having a special relationship with Washington, and then exploit it at any will to attack all its neighbors and regional rivals.
In any case, this state of affairs certainly creates risks. However, conditions in the Middle East have become so bad that there may not be time to wait for the right circumstances to present a comprehensive vision for this region... that has one map today and could wake up to another tomorrow.
It is a region where problems have become intertwined, hostilities have arisen, mistakes have been added up, and the components of modern statehood and civil society have collapsed in many polities.
Even the Israeli right, with its religious nationalists, opportunists, and “militarists,” may not yet fully understand the implications of the “unbridled chaos” that will result from killing opportunities for coexistence and people’s futures.
Moreover, the West has problems of its own that it often seems to lack the courage to acknowledge. The US presidential elections in November may be the “juncture” at which the conundrum of withering partisan life, the growth of religious and racial fanaticism, and the decline of youth’s confidence in establishment parties are revealed.
As for Western Europe, some of its countries find themselves in a much worse situation... Local and continental factors explain why this is the case, including the migrant crisis, which directly contributed to the rise of the neo-fascist “belligerent” right in several democratic countries. Indeed, neo-fascists have become the only (alternative) force capable of challenging the ruling “consensus” parties. They threaten the identity of the European Union and its common interests, to say nothing about its international ties.
And last but not least, there is the old-new obsession...Russia.
In my mind, there is nothing more dangerous to Europe than a reassured Russia... but a Russia that feels besieged and targeted!