The Biden administration’s unconditional support for Israel’s response to the October 7 Hamas attack threatens the national security interests of the United States: not only its economic and security interests in the Middle East but also its strategic competition with China and its defense of the independence of Ukraine.
On November 9, President Biden told reporters that there is “no chance” of a ceasefire in Gaza, as reports of catastrophic conditions there flooded the headlines. United Nations officials have described the attack by Israeli forces on the besieged enclave as a “crisis of humanity” and “children’s cemetery” with more than 11,000 Palestinians killed, tens of thousands injured and more than 1.5 million displaced. Much of Gaza’s already dilapidated infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed.
Every American-made missile launched at the besieged population of Gaza, along with the tepid U.S. response to the war, will damage America’s standing in the region and around the world for years to come. Many are horrified by the United States’ failure to take a meaningful position in favor of immediately stopping the bloodshed, preventing expanded regional conflict, and protecting the rules-based order. The world expects the United States, Israel’s closest ally and financial and military benefactor, to take a morally consistent position.
While millions of people continue to take to the streets to protest throughout Arab and Muslim countries. and worldwideAmerican diplomats report The United States’ position is seen as “material and moral culpability in what they consider possible war crimes.”
They warn that the United States “is losing us, the Arab public, for a generation,” a sentiment visible to anyone reading the “Arab street,” whether through social media or on the ground. Images of empty McDonald’s and Starbucks locations abound from Tunisia to Kuwait as a base rejection of American brands and disillusionment with American policy toward the conflict.
Meanwhile, China, which has advocated a ceasefire, does not miss the opportunity to present itself as a supporter of the Palestinians. The superpower accused of genocide and crimes against humanity for its oppression of the minority Uyghur population) is positioning itself as a champion of the Palestinians, which resonates with the Arab public against a backdrop of weak American attempts to alleviate suffering there.
In his criticism of the Israeli bombing of Gaza, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said: “The injustice towards Palestine has continued for more than half a century. The sufferings that devastated generations must not continue.” While the United States is focused on competing with China, it is rapidly losing ground due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Last year, Biden outlined the defining principles of his policy toward the Middle East, advocating for a rules-based order: “The United States and each of the countries around this table are an essential part of that order because we reject the use of brute force to change borders.” It would be difficult to find an Arab who does not believe that Israel has been using brute force to change the status quo in the occupied Palestinian territories and using the latest escalation to further entrench its occupation of Gaza.
Biden went on to state that the United States will not “tolerate efforts by any country to dominate another in the region through military buildups, incursions, and/or threats.” As Biden singled out Iran, the Arab world feels overwhelmingly more threatened by Israel than by the Islamic Republic. In fact, the United States did little when the current right-wing government was elected in Israel, emboldening extremist settlers. attacks against the Palestinians and periodically inciting violence Against them.
Furthermore, the Biden administration has not hesitated to prioritize the so-called Abraham Accords as a “regional integration” effort, without addressing the root causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Brokered by the trump administrationthe agreement Normalized diplomatic relations between Israel and Arab nations., including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco. Regional economic integration, with all the benefits it can bring, cannot be a substitute for addressing festering regional conflicts such as the Israeli-Palestinian one.
In September 2022, Biden declared, “The United States will always promote the human rights and values enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.” Based on evaluations of almost everyone important human rights organization and international body, Israel has consistently been violating the human rights of Palestinians in the occupied territories and of their own Arab citizens. Since the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, both parties have participated in acts that will be investigated as war crimes, but only one is a US ally financed and supported politically, financially and militarily by the United States.
Across the Arab world and the Global South, American statements on respect for human rights and the laws of war in the context of the Russia-Ukraine war are juxtaposed with staunchly pro-Israel positions regarding the war in Loop. The war has forced even close allies of the United States to denounce American double standards.
in a speech In Cairo in late October, King Abdullah II of Jordan described how Arabs are interpreting the Western response: “Our lives matter less than other lives. The application of international law is optional and human rights have limits: they stop at borders, they stop at races and they stop at religions.”
Biden’s words (and inaction) will echo in Arab ears for decades to come, as American complicity in the Gaza massacre will define the region’s relationship with the United States for the foreseeable future.
Tuqa Nusairat is director of strategy at the Rafik Hariri Center and Middle East Programs at the Atlantic Council in Washington.