The Guardian • Issue #2102

Gaza: Biden’s ‘red lines’ lie

In Borloo/Perth, about 500 people attended a snap rally in solidarity with the people of Rafah. Speakers called for the recognition of Palestine and a permanent ceasefire.

In Borloo/Perth, about 500 people attended a snap rally in solidarity with the people of Rafah. Speakers called for the recognition of Palestine and a permanent ceasefire.

Israeli atrocities and war crimes continue. Western leaders continue to act out grief, even outrage, but nothing is done. A few courageous exceptions, such as the stand taken by Spain, Norway, and Ireland to recognise Palestine stand out, as does South Africa’s move to take Israel to the International Court of Justice. Israel remains unmoved. President Biden has spoken of red lines, but the words are empty, meaningless, false, and hypocritical.

His latest ‘statesman-like’ offering has been to call on Hamas to accept Israel’s terms for a ceasefire. His address came as tanks blast the centre of Rafah, as the border to Egypt has been seized and closed, as aid dries up and as Netanyahu announced that the ‘war’ will go on at least until the end of the year and probably longer.

NO REAL PEACE PLAN

Biden’s announcement of an Israeli “peace plan” was odd, to say the very least. One of the first to respond was Netanyahu who issued a statement. He acknowledged that he had “authorised the negotiating team to present a proposal,” but in the same statement made it clear that it was designed to “enable Israel to continue the war until all its objectives are achieved.”

Netanyahu can act with impunity. The International Court of Justice has demanded an end to the genocide. The International Criminal Court has issued warrants for his arrest as a war criminal. None of this has any meaning. Why? Because Biden and his allies support Israel and its crimes, and quietly look away.

In early May, Biden went on record saying that he had “made it clear to Bibi [Netanyahu]” and his cabinet that “they’re not going to get our support if, in fact, they go into those population centres.” A red line had been established. Or had it? Rafah, the last allegedly safe place in Gaza was attacked. It was bombed, shelled, tanks destroyed homes and hospitals. Then came the outrage of the slaughter of civilians sheltering in tents.

MOVING LINES

Did this cross Biden’s red line? Not according to White House National Security council spokesperson, John Kirby. He dismissed the latest crimes by saying that “this is an airstrike. It’s not a major ground operation. It’s different.”

Aaron Miller, a former senior advisor on Arab-Israeli relations with the US State Department and now a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, sees things a little differently. He was asked whether he was surprised at Biden’s lack of response. Miller said “no, because when it comes to the US-Israel relationship, red lines have a way, historically, of turning, let’s say, pink.”

The US president’s “red line” fantasy came on 8 May, fully seven months after the nightmare of Israeli invasion began. It came after more than 35,000 Palestinians were killed at the hands of the Israeli military. On 8 May the president threatened to cut off arms supplies to Israel if the assault on Rafah was launched. He immediately stepped back from this position, stating that not all arms shipments would be stopped because the defence of Israel was “critical.” When the Tal as-Sultan tent camp was bombed and the charred bodies were seen on screens around the world, Biden declared that this still did not constitute a “major offensive.”

Since the “red line” statement, the world has watched the daily bombings and shelling, not only of Rafah, but of northern Gaza and of refugee centres designated as ‘safe’ areas. The world has watched images of Israeli tanks in Rafah, and now Israel controls the city. The Israelis have seized the entire border area between Gaza and Egypt – the Philadelphi Corridor. This violates the conditions of Israel’s treaty with Egypt. The area had been officially declared to be a buffer zone and was administered and overseen by Egypt from the Egyptian side of the border. Added to this has been the closure of the Rafah land crossing which has meant a virtual end to aid convoys.

None of this, it would seem, ruffles any feathers in the White House. How could it? Regardless of experts on the ground the US seems happy to accept whatever comes from the mouth of Netanyahu. The Israeli leader dismissed as “anti-Semitic slander” any suggestion that his army was targeting civilians or using food and starvation as a weapon of genocide. He has claimed that aid deliveries were pouring in. He has told the media that the ratio of “militant” deaths to civilians was “the lowest rate we have seen in an urban war.” The last figures in the growing list of dead Palestinians, the vast majority of whom are civilians was 36,224.

These are the reasons that the people of the world are so outraged. This is why the anger does not dissipate. The fact remains that Netanyahu can only continue the genocide because he has the “ironclad” support that Biden has pledged.

There are domestic political issues that plague the Biden administration. He has an election to fight. Huge numbers of Biden’s political base are sickened by their government’s actions. How this plays out in November remains to be seen, but Biden appears to be digging in on Israel, regardless of domestic political concerns. Some analysts have already made the claim that Netanyahu and his ‘war’ will be going on after Biden’s time in the White House is up.

Disturbingly, recent opinion polls in Israel show a rise in support for Netanyahu.

Biden’s refusal to waver in his support for Israel and Netanyahu, rests solely on maintaining control of the Middle East. Israel is vital to the strategic interests of US imperialism.

For America’s dwindling band of loyal allies, it is a case of acting outraged while awaiting any shift in line from Washington. We see, in Australia’s official response, a sorry but predictable set of actions.

HAND WRINGING

Immediately after the latest Israeli atrocity, Foreign Minister Penny Wong pleaded for Israel “not to go down this path.” The path she alludes to is the one that crosses Biden’s red line. It is a long path and one not paved with good intentions. The Foreign Minister declared that “the international community has been one on this. What we have seen … reinforces why we and the international community issued this warning.” She went on to call the death and destruction in Rafah “unacceptable,” adding “this cannot continue.” However, it is continuing.

Wong has been urged to make a significant gesture by recalling Ralph King, the Australian ambassador to Israel. It hasn’t happened.

The Australian government speaks of the suffering as being unacceptable and that it cannot continue. It does nothing about the contracts with arms manufacturers to supply parts for aircraft that kill civilians. Defence Minister Richard Marles, along with Penny Wong has repeated Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy’s line that we are not exporting military weapons, things like bombs … to Israel. These arguments did not convince the hundreds of public service workers who recently signed an open letter demanding an end to the trade. Their letter repeated the UN warning that such a trade that enables the genocide violates international humanitarian law.

The actions of the Albanese government are broadly in line with the most ardent supporters of the USA and therefore of Israel. Hands are wrung, brows are knitted, statements are made, but the crimes go on, aided and abetted by these ‘free and democratic’ regimes.

The war crimes of Israel count for little in the thinking of Washington or its allies. Netanyahu has just received an official invitation to address a joint session of the US Congress. The letter of invitation was to “highlight America’s solidarity with Israel …We invite you to share the Israeli government’s vision for defending democracy, combatting terror and establishing a just and lasting peace in the region.”

Red lines!

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