For the first time since the Biden Administration entered the White House the highest-ranking US diplomat, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, came to Israel to discuss a range of issues with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians among them Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
On top of the agenda was the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel and the effort to rebuild Gaza after the eleven-day war.
Blinken claimed that “Hamas’s foothold in Gaza could slip if the US-led rehabilitation (effort would be) successful.” He promised that the United States would address “the underlying causes” of the conflict meaning the lack of opportunities, optimism, and confidence he said. These were the underlying causes according to the American diplomat.
“If we do this right, reconstruction and then relief for the people of Gaza — far from empowering Hamas — has the potential to undermine it, Hamas thrives, unfortunately, on despair, on misery, on desperation, on a lack of opportunity,” Blinken thinks.
He conveniently forgot that this way of handling the situation in Gaza has been tried before and didn’t change it at all while Hamas continued ruling Gaza with an iron fist while using foreign and Israeli aid to build up its rocket arsenal and its military force.
Blinken, however, is confident that with help of the international community the US will be able to ensure that none of the aid delivered to Gaza will fall in the hands of Hamas.
The US Secretary of State first promised $75 million to the Palestinian Arabs in both Gaza and the territories under PA control but later reduced this sum to $38,5 million. At the same time he announced that the Biden Administration will re-open the US consulate in East Jerusalem a move that was met with opposition from the Israeli government.
Netanyahu didn’t address the measures the Biden Administration is taking vis a vis the Palestinian Arabs but instead thanked the administration for replenishing the Iron Dome missiles that Israel had to use to shoot down the rockets from Gaza.
The Israeli PM promised “a powerful response” whenever Hamas breaks the calm and said he had discussed with Blinken how to work together to “prevent Hamas rearmament with weapons and means of aggression.”
Netanyahu also briefly talked about peace with the Palestinian Arabs and said he agreed with President Biden that we’re not going to get peace until Israel is recognized by Arab countries as an independent Jewish state.
After visiting Jerusalem Blinken went on to pay a visit to PA leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
There he was ‘welcomed’ by angry protesters who belonged to various Islamist movements. They shouted slogans against the US and called the superpower “the head of the snake” while they made clear that Blinken wasn’t welcome in the “land of Palestine”.
Blinken then went on by visiting Egypt where he met with President el-Sisi. He encouraged the Egyptian President to take upon himself the role of ‘honest broker in the negotiations that must lead to a permanent truce between Hamas and Israel.
Indeed, shortly after Blinken traveled to Jordan Egypt invited Hamas leaders to Cairo for talks about indirect negotiations with Israel. El-Sisi later invited the Israeli government as well for these indirect negotiations after which Netanyahu reluctantly accepted the invitation.
It becomes slowly clear that the Biden Administration is turning over the policy for a new approach toward the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
That policy was designed by Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner two Mid-East envoys of the Trump Administration and resulted in the so-called Abraham Accords, the peace agreement between Israel and several Arab Gulf States.
Biden said last week that only the two-state solution is a viable way to solve the hundred-year-old conflict with the Palestinian Arabs and he repeated that three times.
Blinken, however, stopped short of discussing a new peace initiative while meeting Israeli leaders. Instead, he focused on maintaining the truce with Hamas and on the rehabilitation of Gaza.
The US Secretary of State seemed to indulge in damage control after Biden officials compared Hamas’ rocket onslaught to an old dispute over Palestinian families in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in the vicinity of the Old City of Jerusalem.
This dispute, which has led to numerous court hearings and was won by the Jewish owners of the houses in Sheikh Jarrah was used by Hamas as one of the fig leaves to start the recent war with Israel.
Biden policies toward the Palestinian Arabs, such as resuming the financial aid to the Palestinian Authority encouraged Hamas to enter into a new conflict with Israel experts in Israel say.
Hamas leaders saw that Biden was reversing Trump’s policies and understood that Israel had lost a great deal of the backing that the former President gave to Israel.
Towards the end of the war Biden even told Netanyahu that he was “done kidding around” and added that “Israel had to finish it”.
This was another wrong signal to Hamas that stepped up its rocket attacks on the Israeli population centers.
In fact, Biden made a similar mistake in the case of the Ansar-Allah or Houthi militia in Yemen. This Iranian-backed terror organization was taken off the US list of terror organizations in the naive expectation that it would moderate the Iranian proxy.
However, instead of having a moderating effect on Ansar Allah, the militia stepped up its attacks on Saudi Arabia.
By pressing Israel to enter into indirect negotiations with Hamas Biden is again playing with fire the same Israeli experts say.
Hamas will use these negotiations to get a foothold in Jerusalem while it is almost certain that the terror organization will not give in to the Israeli demand that Hamas releases the bodies of two IDF soldiers, who were killed during the 2014 war, as well as two Israeli hostages.
It’s fair to assume that Hamas will pay lip service to the international attempts to rehabilitate Gaza but it will never allow the oversight the Americans want because the organization knows that both the US and the international community don’t have the will to confront Hamas according to commentators in Israel.