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Biden Issues ‘Red Line’ For Israel Over Rafah, But Won’t Do Anything About It

Biden Issues ‘Red Line’ For Israel Over Rafah, But Won’t Do Anything About It

The Muslim fasting period of Ramadan has begun, and the feared large-scale Israeli ground offensive on Rafah has yet to begin, though many believe it is imminent after Israeli leaders previously signaled it’s expected to start by March 10.

President Biden on Saturday issued a ‘red line’ for the first time over Rafah, warning Israel against attacking the southern enclave which is now packed with over one million internally displaced refugees. Washington has repeatedly called on Israel to facilitate a mass exodus of civilians before any assault takes place, however, there’s clearly the practical issue (and perhaps impossibility) of where hundreds of thousands of refugees would go. They are blocked by the Sinai (Egyptian) border to the south.

“[We] cannot have another 30,000 more Palestinians dead,” Biden told MSNBC in a fresh interview. He was then asked whether Rafah is a red line for him and he responded: “It is a red line.”

Biden then explained that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “hurting Israel more than helping Israel” in the way the war against Hamas is being executed. The president that said Netanyahu “must pay more attention to the innocent lives being lost as a consequence of the actions taken.”

Biden said that the soaring death toll – which Gaza sources say has surpassed 30,000 – “is contrary to what Israel stands for. And I think it’s a big mistake.”

But Biden stopped short of saying he would cut off weapons and ammunition supplies to Israel, which remain vital in its war against Hamas. Some pundits have said the Israel Defense Forces could not possibly sustain the war for very long without American-supplied weapons. Still, Biden administration sources have lately spoken of rising anger and frustration at the White House with Israeli leadership.

Thus Biden drew his ‘red line’ and seems unprepared to do anything about it if that line is crossed. This also means Biden just set himself up for more political embarrassment on the Gaza issue, after he’s already facing growing criticisms from progressives and his own base for hypocrisy and double-speak in the face of horrific civilian atrocities. 

Politico noted that during the MSNBC interview, Biden still pledged unwavering support to America’s closest regional ally

Even as Biden warned Israel’s government against further targeting of the civilian population in Gaza, he reiterated his general support. “I’m never going to leave Israel,” said the U.S. president. “The defense of Israel is still critical.”

These latest words from Biden follow on the heels of his being caught on a hot mic just after Thursday’s evening’s State of the Union address wherein he said he’s going to have a “come to Jesus” conversation with Netanyahu.

According to a review of the significance of that moment and what it means for the November election

Weeks before “uncommitted” voters sent a message to Joe Biden that he needs to bring an end to Israel’s war in Gaza or risk losing reelection, the president had evidently decided — to borrow another American neologism — to consciously uncouple from Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s recalcitrant prime minister.

In the past month, he has, through a series of relatively quiet but closely linked and deliberate moves, sought to marginalize Bibi, as Netanyahu is ubiquitously known, internationally and at home. The change spilled out publicly on Thursday night following the State of the Union address, when Biden announced he ordered the U.S. military to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza via a sea pier. After the speech, Biden was stopped by Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, who told him to “keep pushing” Israel’s leader. Smiling, Biden said, “I told him, ‘Bibi,’— don’t repeat this— ‘you & I are going to have a come to Jesus moment.” Hidden behind Secretary of State Antony Blinken, a presidential aide whispered, “Sir, you’re on a hot mic,” to which a buoyant Biden replied, “I’m on a hot mic here. Good. That’s good.”

And there was also this from Vice President Kamala Harris:

In the event the new American position over Netanyahu remained unclear, Vice President Kamala Harris left no doubts in a Friday interview with CBS News, which asked “are the Israelis at risk of losing U.S. aid if this continues?” Harris replied: “I think it’s important for us to distinguish or at least not conflate the Israeli government with the Israeli people.”

NYMag’s The Intelligencer, concluded of the meaning, “In other words: Israelis, we’re with you. Netanyahu, be gone.

BelowProgressive & independent journalists were quick to point out contradictions inherent in Biden’s new red line

However, Netanyahu has survived this long, and Washington increasingly has limited options for effecting change in Israel’s government, also at a sensitive moment Biden needs Tel Aviv’s cooperation in setting up the humanitarian aid port and Army-engineered pier on Gaza’s coast. The US is expecting Israeli forces to provide security for the risky initiative.


Mon, 03/11/2024 – 02:45

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