Children crying in Gaza

Children crying following the Israeli bombing of Khan Yunis, Gaza on October 15, 2023.

(Photo by Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images)

Support for Israel's Genocidal Attack on Gaza Further Isolates the United States

The administration is doing damage to US standing and credibility and to our self-proclaimed values and principles.

Events of the past week have highlighted how the US’ feckless indulgent behavior toward policies pursued by Israel has damaged America’s standing in the world. Two United Nations votes calling for a ceasefire in Gaza showed the US has been abandoned by most of our closest allies, many of whom are increasingly questioning our global leadership.

After more than two months, Israel’s relentless pummeling of Palestinians in Gaza has continued. By now the death toll has reached nearly 20,000, mostly civilians. Israel’s bombing in the north of Gaza reduced more than one-half of it to rubble, while forcing almost 2 million Palestinians to flee their homes. After the short humanitarian pause that allowed an exchange of hostages and captives, Israel shifted its bombing campaign to the south where they daily issue orders for Palestinians to move from one area to another, only to bomb the areas to which they’ve ordered relocation. In the make-shift camps that have sprung up in the south, hunger is rampant, as is disease. It is a humanitarian disaster being compounded by Israel’s behavior that can only be described as genocidal.

In the face of the enormity of this crisis, last week the UAE Mission to the UN introduced a resolution in the Security Council calling for a humanitarian ceasefire. The resolution was endorsed by 103 other countries—a record total of co-sponsors. It was deeply disturbing that the US used the time leading up to the vote expending considerable political capital to get others to join them in voting “no.”

They failed, and the final vote reflected the extent of US isolation—13 for the ceasefire, the US against, and the United Kingdom abstaining. Further evidence of America’s isolation came a day later when a non-binding ceasefire resolution introduced in the General Assembly received 153 votes, with the US and an embarrassing collection of nine other countries voting against it.

The US explanation for its veto and “no” vote was that the resolution was rushed through without enough time for consultation. This was patently and embarrassingly false as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has been two months in the making and the UAE resolution had been circulating for days, allowing ample time for discussion. Instead of negotiating, the US focused on arm-twisting to get other countries to join them in opposition. What has become clear to the world is that the Biden administration is unwilling to call for a ceasefire.

Two other factors amplify this conclusion. One day after the UN votes, which the US complained it didn’t have enough time to adequately consider, the Biden White House announced that it had made a unilateral decision to ship 14,000 artillery shells to Israel without first notifying Congress. In other words, they didn’t have enough time to consider a ceasefire, but needed no time at all to send more deadly weapons to Israel in violation of the rules requiring congressional oversight established by the Arms Export Control Act.

One week ago, at a White House Hanukkah gathering, President Biden spoke glowingly about his love for Israel, its right to defend itself, and pledging that the US would always stand with Israel. He then pivoted to make what appeared to be a criticism of Israel’s conduct of the war charging that Israel with “indiscriminate bombing” in Gaza. Before anyone was able to imagine that this represented a turning point, the next day one administration spokesperson “played down” the president’s remarks, while another suggested that Israel was in fact being more careful and targeted in its renewed bombing campaign in the south.

Instead of addressing with any seriousness the massive loss of Palestinian life and the desperate conditions under which the survivors have been forced to live, the US continues to prioritize Israel’s fantasy military objective of “eliminating Hamas.” As a result, US policymakers deem calls for a ceasefire as disruptive.

I am reminded of a conversation I had with a top Biden administration official, a few weeks into this war. At one point he remarked, echoing Israel’s lines, that a “ceasefire would be intolerable since it would only give Hamas time to rearm.” Later when I recounted the deaths and devastation of Gaza, he said “that too is intolerable.” I replied, “So there are two ‘intolerables’ and you’ve picked the one that continues to cost more Palestinian lives.”

That exchange occurred when the death toll in Gaza was 3,000. Now it’s nearing 20,000, and the world and a significant portion of US opinion are wearying not only of Israel’s war but of the US’ support for it. The administration is doing damage to US standing and credibility and to our self-proclaimed values and principles.

The bottom line is that while American and worldwide public opinion of Israeli behavior is shifting, US policy is stuck and increasingly isolated.

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