US senate approves $14 billion military aid for Israel as Gaza death toll rises!

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Demonstration in the Port of Oakland demanding ‘No US military aid to Israel’

The most pertinent fact about the Biden administration’s stance on the ongoing conflict in Gaza is as follows: No act by Israel, regardless of its severity, has led Joe Biden to even consider halting, let alone completely cutting off, the supply of US weapons and financial support to Israel’s total war effort.

On Tuesday, the Senate approved an exceptional $14 billion in extra military aid for Israel to sustain its occupation and aerial bombardment of the Palestinians in Gaza. Biden has stubbornly dismissed international calls for an immediate stop to Israel’s military aggression on a malnourished, largely defenceless population. Far from contemplating the suspension of military sales to Israel, his administration is, in fact, arranging for a new delivery of advanced munitions to Tel Aviv.

As the death toll among Palestinians in Gaza approaches 30,000 — with over 13,000 children confirmed dead — the strategists at the White House are becoming anxious about the 2024 US election.

They are earnestly trying to forge a public image of empathy for the people of Gaza and to convince the public that Biden has lost patience with his long-standing ally of nearly 50 years, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Faced with a series of damaging public remarks by Biden, in which he claimed to have recently met with world leaders who have long since passed away, and a special counsel’s comments on his mental sharpness, the president’s re-election efforts have been forced into damage control mode to shore up their public narrative.

Since the International Court of Justice officially decided that South Africa’s genocide lawsuit against Israel could proceed, issuing a set of urgent directives for Israel to refrain from genocidal actions, Tel Aviv has ramped up its military activities.

It has been besieging hospitals and targeting civilian areas in preparation for a potential full-scale ground invasion of Rafah.

This city, located on the border with Egypt, has been heavily bombarded by Israel recently, resulting in a precarious 25-square-mile ‘death cage’ where 1.4 million Palestinians find themselves trapped — after being instructed by Israel to seek refuge there for their safety.

Israel is reportedly devising an ‘evacuation’ strategy for the massive group of individuals trapped in Rafah.

The terminology used to describe this further enforced displacement of Palestinians under threat of death is appaling — suggesting they are being rescued rather than terrorised.

The Biden administration has officially stated it does not back an Israeli ground offensive in Rafah, yet it has made an important qualification: A summary from the White House of Biden’s recent discussion with Netanyahu indicates the administration’s view that ‘a military operation should not go ahead without a believable and practicable plan for ensuring the safety of and assistance for the civilians in Rafah.’

The Wall Street Journal reported that ‘Israel is proposing the establishment of vast tent cities in Gaza as part of an evacuation scheme to be financed by the US and its Arab Gulf allies in anticipation of an imminent invasion’ of Rafah.

According to Egyptian officials quoted by the newspaper, Egypt plans to set up 15 campgrounds across southwestern Gaza, each capable of housing approximately 25,000 tents, alongside a field hospital.

Satellite imagery suggests such facilities are under construction, though Egypt has been reserved in commenting on its stance regarding this matter.

These developments suggest the White House is aware that Israel is likely to initiate its extensive ground operation in Rafah.

Such an invasion could spark a significant diplomatic conflict between Israel and Egypt at a time when the White House is hopeful that Cairo could play a crucial role in mediating a prisoner exchange deal as part of a six-week temporary ceasefire.

Over the last four and a half months, the White House has made a series of tepid statements voicing its guarded concerns about forthcoming Israeli military actions, including strikes on hospitals in Gaza, only to then openly support Israel when these operations are carried out.

In the case of Rafah, the Biden administration has reportedly informed Israel it would back targeted attacks in the border city but opposes a comprehensive ground offensive.

Given the machinations of crass, cynical politics that dominate Washington, it’s conceivable that the Biden administration sees an opportunity in the Rafah situation.

If Netanyahu defies the White House’s declared stance, it could give Biden a chance to intensify the spin operation at the centre of the long-running saga about purportedly ‘losing patience’ with Netanyahu.

This might further bolster the fabricated narrative the president’s re-election campaign has been constructing: Biden has done all in his power to uphold Israel’s right to self-defence, but he will draw the line if Netanyahu attempts to exceed certain bounds.

However, historical patterns strongly suggest Biden will endorse an Israeli ground invasion with some expressions of regret over the tactics used, while also claiming success in persuading Israel to spare civilians.

The White House has routinely taken credit for urging Israel to moderate its operations, even as the Israeli military continues to cause significant Palestinian civilian casualties.

A similar situation is unfolding with the dance Biden and Netanyahu are performing around the Palestinian statehood or a two-state solution issue. The administration recognises that this matter is crucial for any agreement with Saudi Arabia to fully normalise relations with Israel, and progress in this direction could enable the White House to claim a hollow political triumph even as Gaza remains devastated.

Administration officials are increasingly concentrating on a strategy to link a roadmap for Palestinian statehood with the cessation of hostilities, while Netanyahu has staunchly refused to entertain such a proposal. ‘Israel will persist in opposing the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state,’ Netanyahu declared in a statement following a 40-minute conversation with Biden on 15 February. ‘Acknowledging such a state in the aftermath of the 7 October massacre would reward unparalleled terrorism and obstruct any potential peace agreement.’

Addressing this topic, as with the issue of illegal settlements, represents a relatively safe conflict for Biden to engage in with a politically weakened Netanyahu. It has been evident for months that a key aspect of Biden’s Gaza strategy in the US election campaign is to shift the blame for his central involvement in a genocidal conflict onto Netanyahu’s political fortunes, in the hope that it deteriorates in time to benefit the re-election narrative.

Various media leaks concerning Biden’s growing irritation with Netanyahu amount to nothing more than electoral tactics.

A recent assessment by US intelligence suggested that Israel’s existing arsenal allows it to continue its military campaign against Gaza for an additional 19 weeks, barring further ammunition supplies from Washington. The fact that Biden has outright refused to leverage his position as Israel’s primary arms supplier starkly indicates that the occasional public assurances, offered by US officials and numerous media disclosures about Biden’s increasing frustration with Netanyahu, are merely electoral manoeuvres.

Any ‘exit strategy’ the Biden administration eventually selects to politically extricate itself from the Gaza conflict cannot erase the countless instances over the past 134 days when Israel’s egregious actions could have served as immediate grounds to threaten an end to military support and weapon sales to Israel. The decision by Biden and his team to continue supplying arms, even as the slaughter unfolds in full view of the international community, has been a deliberate and conscious one. Early in the conflict, Biden was cautioned by Arab and Muslim leaders in the US that his backing of an unwarranted Israeli offensive against civilians would have political repercussions, yet he opted to maintain his support for Israel’s extensive killing campaign.

The reason the Gaza issue has become a domestic electoral challenge for Biden is due to activism, particularly from Palestinian Americans. The White House seems to think it can still recover the Arab American vote and is desperately hoping that the prospect of another term for Donald Trump will sway the balance in Biden’s favour, despite his deplorable involvement in an ongoing genocide. Whatever the outcome of the November election, it must never be forgotten that it was Biden, not those Americans who oppose Israel’s war and the US’s facilitation of it, who enhanced Trump’s electoral prospects. This responsibility rests solely with Biden and the Democratic Party establishment.