Biden's Israel visit started on the wrong footing
Published: Oct 20, 2023 03:31 PM
Illustration:Chen Xia/GT

Illustration:Chen Xia/GT

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, where they agreed on "unprecedented" US military assistance to Israel in its ongoing conflict with Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. On the same day, the US vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have called for humanitarian pauses in Gaza, with the US ambassador saying that the actions must be informed by "the facts on the ground and support direct diplomacy efforts." 

Biden's visit, and his so-called diplomacy efforts, started on the wrong footing. They fail to convince anyone that the US is playing an even hand that safeguards the legitimate rights of both the Israelis and the Palestinians. This approach won't be effective, especially when numerous Arab, Muslim and other countries worldwide are deeply involved in this volatile situation. From a philosophical standpoint, the US' inability to maintain an even approach will likely be judged by history as one of the fundamental reasons for the fact that the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people have not been guaranteed over the decades.

The Abraham Accords, promoted very vigorously by the US, is an attempt to disregard the fundamental interests of the Palestinian people in achieving their own independent state. It aims to normalize relations between Israel and Arab countries without addressing the Palestinians' quest for independence. However, it's unrealistic to expect all Arab and Muslim countries to fully support this accord simultaneously. The recent military conflict and Israel's attempt to eliminate the Palestinians from the northern part of Gaza have shed light on the true nature of the Abraham Accords. As a result, this may ultimately push it into a body of dead water and its revival seems unlikely in the near future. 

The Middle East will experience further waves of hatred, desperation and extremism. The situation involving Israel is not being made safer; it is becoming more dangerous. Iran's call for the Israeli government to halt its extreme activities in Gaza signals that the Israel-Palestine conflict may explode out of control anytime soon. If that happens, the US faces a dilemma regarding as to whether or not it should take military action to unconditionally support Israel, running the risk of alienating more Arab and Muslim countries. These populations, totaling between 1.5 to 1.8 billion people, are among the largest globally and wield significant popularity, power and influence. This could potentially transform numerous cities worldwide into the forefront of battlegrounds, lasting years. 

Over the past 10 to 20 years, the US has aimed to reduce its involvement in the Middle East and shift its focus to other regions, particularly the Far East and East Asia, with a significant emphasis on countering China. However, the ongoing crisis indicates that the US may not withdraw from the Middle East anytime soon. The conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians will keep the US deeply engaged. And if countries like Iran, Syria, Yemen, and others become entangled in the military conflict, it could potentially lead to a major military conflict on the brink of a world war.

The US is also very much worried about the situation spiraling out of control, and Biden's visit to the Middle East likely aims to prevent the US from becoming entangled in an explosive situation it may find challenging to manage. The deployment of two carrier strike groups to the shores of Israel signals the US' intent to demonstrate military strength and deter any country from engaging in military actions against Israel. However, the success of this US design remains uncertain.

The US government is running out of money. While the US government wants many other countries to believe that it has limitless financial resources to support the war in Ukraine and Israel's conflict with Arab countries, starting with Palestine, it is important to recognize that no country possesses an unlimited budget. The US is no exception which also needs the approval of their Congress. In fact, US Congress just passed a stopgap funding bill to keep the government open through mid-November. At a certain time, realism and pragmatism need to kick in, and it is unlikely that the American people want to suffer the consequences of one war after another. 

China is a true, staunch, faithful friend to both the Arab and Muslim worlds. China wants to foster lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, recognizing that the most effective and, in fact, the only viable means to achieve this is to promote the two-state solution. China has drawn a clear line in the sand for the Israelis to see, for the Palestinian people to see, for the Arab countries to see, for the Muslim world to see and for everyone in the world with a sense of conscience, justice and decency to see. This is the time to protect and advocate the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. This is the time to urge the Israeli government to stop escalation, immediately ceasefire, to start treating the Palestinian people as human beings. They are human beings, just as you and I are. This is the Chinese government's position on this war, one of nobility, dignity and decency. 

The author is a chair professor at Soochow University and Vice President of the Center for China and Globalization. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn