The United States, between support for Israel and the need to prevent the expansion of the conflict | International

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On the eve of Hamas' surprise assault on Israel on October 7, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan boasted that "the Middle East has not been this quiet in two decades." Barely two weeks after that sentence, the United States is immersed in a region that threatens to burst into flames. His aspirations to gradually withdraw the focus of his foreign policy on the area to put it on Asia and the war in Ukraine have been put on hold. As Israel prepares for what is feared to be a bloody invasion of Gaza and the situation in the Strip deteriorates, Washington, which has closed ranks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, is concentrating its efforts on containing the Israeli response and preventing the conflict spreads.

President Joe Biden, who from the first moment has expressed his support for Israel, this Sunday declared himself against an occupation of Gaza by that State. “I think it would be a big mistake,” he declared in an interview broadcast on the CBS program “60 Minutes,” in his clearest attempt to contain Israel since the beginning of the crisis. The White House resident has expressed his opinion in favor of the need to defeat Hamas, but has clarified that it must be achieved with “a path to a Palestinian State.” According to the digital Axios and other American media, which cite senior officials in the Administration, Biden is considering traveling to Israel after having received an invitation from the Prime Minister in this regard. So far, the White House is limited to indicating that “there are no new trips to announce.”

The position of the United States, Israel's main ally, has evolved somewhat throughout the week. Support for his partner remains unwavering: he has not formulated the slightest criticism, at least in public, of the impossible ultimatum for 1.1 million Palestinians in northern Gaza to move to the south. But, as conditions in the Strip worsen and voices of denunciation increase, he has emphasized that “the Palestinian population is not Hamas,” that the response to the radical militia should not entail the suffering of the civilian population. and in facilitating humanitarian assistance to the Strip. US sources maintain that, behind the scenes, pressure on Israel has increased. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated on CNN that his counterparts in Israel have notified him of the restoration of the water supply to southern Gaza, which was cut off—like electricity—in response to the Hamas attack.

The Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on a tour of the main allies in the region, has extended his trip and will return to Israel this Monday, where he already stopped on Thursday, to carry out “additional consultations,” as announced by his spokesperson. In Washington, President Joe Biden, who from the first moment aligned himself with Israel, indicated: “We must not lose sight of the fact that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians have nothing to do with the despicable attacks by Hamas, and are suffering as a result of they". On Saturday, Biden had spoken by phone with Netanyahu — for the fifth time in eight days — and for the first time in this crisis with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Contacts happen at dizzying speed. While Blinken completed his tour of Israel, Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, he also spoke by phone with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, asking that Beijing use its influence to avoid interventions by third countries and who in turn warned him that the situation could get out of control. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who also made a whirlwind visit to Israel, talks daily with his counterpart Yoav Gallant.

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The events of last week have been an earthquake for American foreign policy, when the country is about to enter the electoral campaign. “An Administration that upon arrival did not prioritize the Middle East, and that believed that the United States should reduce its presence (in the region), finds itself with a crisis that forces it to confront these issues,” noted Brian Katulis, of the Institute for the Middle East. Medium in Washington, in an informative talk.

Over the past two and a half years, the Biden Administration had prioritized its rivalry with China and the war in Ukraine. In the Middle East, he tried to reach agreements that would resolve, or stabilize, regional conflicts: on the one hand, he mediated for Saudi Arabia and Israel to normalize their relations. On the other hand, he was trying to smooth things over with Iran, his great nemesis in the region. Last month, an agreement for the exchange of prisoners was closed with that regime.

Now, their priority is to avoid an escalation that could leave the region in flames. On the one hand, it seeks to dissuade “other entities in the area” (read Iran—the great nemesis of the United States and its allies in the region—and its protégé, the Lebanese militia Hezbollah), from trying to intervene to take advantage of the situation. The dispatch of the aircraft carrier Eisenhower, and earlier this week the Gerald Ford, is a strong warning gesture. Blinken's tour was also aimed in this direction: one of its objectives was for allies such as Qatar, with good relations with Tehran - the Iranian Foreign Minister arrived in Doha this Saturday - to make it clear to the Islamic regime that it should not take any steps. that could aggravate the crisis.

On the other hand, and despite having aligned itself with Netanyahu's government from the first moment, Washington is trying to ensure that the predictably virulent Israeli campaign is contained with measures to protect civilians. In Qatar, a visibly haggard Blinken maintained that the goal is to “establish safe zones” in Gaza and ensure that civilians can receive humanitarian aid.

Normalization with Saudi Arabia on hold

The new reality on the ground has already claimed what should have been the crown jewel of US policy towards the region. Coinciding with Blinken's visit, sources close to the Saudi Government indicated to the AFP agency this Saturday that Riyadh "has decided to suspend talks on possible normalization with Israel, and has reported [de ello] to those responsible in the United States.” Washington hoped that this normalization between the guardian of the Muslim holy places and Israel would help stabilize the region and create a pincer over Iran.

But that agreement, by which the Arab kingdom would have followed the path of Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, definitively condemned the two-state solution – the Israeli and the Palestinian – to the seven-decade conflict in the Middle East to the trash bin. by removing the last remaining incentive for the Netanyahu government to engage in talks with the Palestinians. One of the experts' conjectures is that Hamas launched its attack precisely to disrupt negotiations between Riyadh and the state founded in 1948.

“A consequence of the crisis is the reminder that the unresolved issues surrounding the Palestinian people cannot be ignored. They need to consider and prioritize greater US participation in the region,” Katulis noted.

Although that pause in negotiations may only be temporary. “Arab governments absolutely share Israel's assessment of Hamas, seeing it as an armed group with a political vision of Islam that emanates from the Muslim Brotherhood. They also see him as a puppet of Iran, their other great nemesis. From the point of view of governments, they have a great interest in helping to create a situation in Gaza where Hamas is removed from power,” said Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East Institute at the CSIS think tank, in a conversation with journalists this Friday. “The instinct of governments is that if they can help remove Hamas from power, they would love to.”

This may lead to new rounds of negotiations in the future, which include some type of solution for the Palestinians, according to Alterman. “The time for diplomacy will come, and what Secretary Blinken is doing right now in the Middle East is planting the seeds for that diplomacy,” this expert maintains.

Man charged with murder of 6-year-old boy for being Muslim


A man in the State of Illinois has been accused of a hate crime for stabbing a six-year-old boy to death and leaving the child's mother badly injured. The suspect, identified as Joseph Czuba, 71, attacked the victims because of their Muslim religion and in retaliation for the Hamas attack against Israel on the 7th, according to local officials and human rights activists. He used a military-style knife, with a serrated blade 18 centimeters long.

The minor received 26 stab wounds and, although he arrived at the hospital alive, died shortly after. Her mother, 32, also suffered multiple injuries, although she is expected to recover from the attack that occurred this Saturday in the town of Plainfield, about 40 miles southwest of Chicago. "Detectives were able to determine that both victims of this brutal attack were stabbed by the suspect due to their being Muslim and the current conflict in the Middle East involving Hamas and Israel," said the Will County Sheriff's Office, where Find Plainfield.

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