Biden’s Israel visit likely to end up a lost cause
US fails to be an impartial and responsible mediator: analysts
Published: Oct 18, 2023 11:13 PM
US President Joe Biden disembarks upon his arrival at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport on October 18, 2023. Photo: VCG

US President Joe Biden disembarks upon his arrival at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport on October 18, 2023. Photo: VCG

Joe Biden's attempt to use his trip to the Middle East to intervene in the Israel-Palestine conflict was always going to be a gamble, and the deadly bombing of a hospital that killed hundreds of people, about which both sides have made accusations and counter accusations, makes his hopes even more difficult. Analysts condemned the bombing as "appalling" and said that Biden's goal of demonstrating the US' international leadership as an effective mediator at this volatile time is likely to end up a lost cause.

Displaying a clip of a failed rocket launch, the Israeli military on Wednesday has blamed the hospital blast in Gaza on a misfired rocket from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) armed group, according to BBC reports. The PIJ is the second biggest militant group in the Gaza Strip and is backed by Iran. 

Whereas, Hamas and other countries are inclined to believe an Israeli air strike was responsible for the explosion, which reportedly killed more than 500 people Tuesday night.

Speaking before his arrival in Beijing for the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF), UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was "horrified" by the explosion at the Gaza hospital.

Later, Guterres reiterated "two urgent humanitarian appeals" during the BRF. He said he had appealed to Hamas for an immediate and unconditional release of hostages, and to Israel to allow unrestricted access to humanitarian aid for Gaza, according to Al Jazeera. 

The spokesperson from China's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said that China has been shocked by the hospital bombing and strongly condemns the attack for taking so many lives. 

The spokesperson expressed condolences to the victims and sympathy to the injured, and also called for an immediate ceasefire and an end to the fighting, as well as maximum efforts to protect civilians and avoid a humanitarian disaster.

However, as Biden landed in Tel Aviv, with the smoke from the deplorable bombing still drifting in the air, he openly endorsed Israel's version of claims, telling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the explosion at al-Ahli hospital in Gaza appears to have been "done by the other team, and not you."

Biden said he is in Tel Aviv "for a simple reason - I want the people of Israel and the people of the world to know where the US stands," and make sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself, The Times of Israel reported on Wednesday.

The horrific bombing has made the situation even more volatile, adding to the mediation that Biden already had little hope of succeeding at, Ding Long, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

It has always been a challenge for Biden to balance his support for Israel with his gestures to address the worsening humanitarian situation in the warzone. But Biden's one-sided support of Israeli when the bombing scene had yet been cleared exposes the US' barefaced gestures in dealing with the conflict, further reinforcing its image of being an ineffective and irresponsible mediator, Ding noted. 

Biden's target to score diplomatic points and demonstrate the US' international leadership at this volatile time is doomed to end up a lost cause, Chinese analysts said.

Worse, just before Air Force One took off and flew to Tel Aviv, the summit in Amman was suddenly canceled. A BBC update citing Jordan's foreign minister wrote that Jordan held the position that the meeting was only worthy being held when the parties are on the same page to end the "war and the massacres against Palestinians."

If the summit had not been canceled, Biden would've met King Abdullah of Jordan, President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt and Palestine's Mahmoud Abbas. Ding said that this is embarrassing for Biden as it shows that the regional countries have no confidence in his ability to be an impartial mediator and to end the brutal conflict, which further weakens his aim to deal with the crisis through negotiations with regional leaders. 

In disregard of the situation, Biden's choice to directly stand by Israel will not help cool down regional tension but rather provoke more conflicts, the expert said. 

Though showing solidarity with Israel, the US is not prepared to actually participate in the Israeli military action, but mainly seeks to deter Iran and Hezbollah. The US also fears that the situation is spiraling out of control, and if it does, it could further impact the US' existing presence in the Middle East, Liu Weidong, a research fellow from the Institute of American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

The Biden administration wants to support Israel so that Israel can exert influence on the Jewish community in the US, serving to create a relatively favorable atmosphere for next year's election, Liu said. 

Based on the current situation, the risk for an escalation exists, Chinese analysts say.

The conflict is escalating as Israel is currently adopting a more aggressive offensive policy, which is to completely eradicate Hamas and prevent them from remaining in the Gaza strip. Israel will have to bear the burden of international moral responsibility and increase the political cost of its military actions in the Gaza Strip. However, despite the pressure from the international community, Israel's military operations will not cease, analysts said.