Biden-Netanyahu Tensions Over U.N. Abstention and Rafah Offensive Roil U.S.-Israel Ties – Foreign Policy

Posted By on March 30, 2024

Welcome back to Foreign Policys SitRep.

Heres whats on tap for the day: U.S.-Israel relations hit a low point over Gaza, another shake-up in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskys cabinet, and Washington gets another cyber wake-up callthis time from Chinese hackers targeting U.S. critical infrastructure.

If youve been paying scant attention to news on the U.S.-Israel relationship in the past week, you might be confused. If youve been paying close attention, youre probably just as confused.

This week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was set to send a delegation of top Israeli officials to visit the White House, at U.S. President Joe Bidens request, to discuss U.S. concerns over Israels planned invasion of Rafah, a city in the Gaza Strip where more than 1.5 million Palestinians have fled during the war.

On Monday, Netanyahu abruptly canceled that visit after the United States abstained from a United Nations Security Council vote calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza. Netanyahu castigated the U.S. decision to abstain, calling it a retreat from the consistent American position since the beginning of the war.

This was all while Yoav Gallant, Israels defense minister, was in Washington seeking (and mostly failing) to present a business-as-usual atmosphere in meetings with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and CIA Director Bill Burns.

Then, Netanyahu un-canceled the meeting he had just canceled.

In all, it was a head-spinning week for ties between Washington and its most important partner in the Middle East, all while the Israel-Hamas war continues to inflame tensions across the region and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza worsens.

Lets find the signal amid all of this noise. Here are three trend lines weve picked up on.

Defiance. First, Netanyahu seems to have decided that he overplayed his hand by canceling his aides visit to Washington, where Biden officials were already frustrated by the Israeli leaders intransigence.

But beyond this, Netanyahu is not bowing muchif at allto U.S. pressure to address the massive humanitarian crisis in Gaza and table his plans for an invasion of Rafah.

In addition to canceling the delegations planned trip to Washington, Israel recalled its negotiating team from talks in Qatar after Hamas rejected the latest proposal for a roughly six-week cease-fire, during which Israel would release around 700 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for 40 Israeli hostages held in Gaza.

Netanyahu blamed Washingtons U.N. Security Council vote abstention for Hamass rebuffing of the deal. (The U.S. State Department rejected Netanyahus claim.)

Frustration. Second, the Biden team is deeply frustrated with Netanyahu, but theres a floor to how far that frustration goes, primarily because the U.S. commander in chiefs support for Israel is embedded in his foreign-policy DNA.

Biden is taking heat domestically and abroad over his continued support for Israel in the war, particularly from the progressive flank of his Democratic Party during a high-stakes election year. A majority of Americans now disapprove of Israels actions in Gaza, according to recent polls. Even former U.S. President Donald Trump publicly urged Netanyahu to finish up the Gaza operation this week.

Yet the U.S. president has kept most of his thoughts on the rupture with Netanyahu private. (Biden told Sen. Michael Bennet after the State of the Union address that he and Netanyahu would have to have a come to Jesus meeting, but that was an apparently accidental hot mic moment.)

Biden has also ignored calls to cut the supply of U.S. weapons to Israel and has so far refused to put conditions on the military aidwith many officials fearing such actions could leave the White House open to the charge that it is leaving Israel defenseless.

Doubt. The last takeaway is that theres growing doubt, and real fear, among Biden officials and experts that Israels military campaign in Gaza to defeat Hamas once and for all wont work.

Hamas has proved resilient in the face of the Israeli offensive, even moving back into Gazas Al-Shifa Hospital after a massive Israeli battle to rid the medical complex of Hamas last year.

This is leading to mounting fears that Israel will face a long insurgency from Hamas after conventional military operations wrap up.

If anything, the parallel Im most fearing is the mission accomplished banner moment in the Iraq War, when we toppled Saddams Baathist government, but thats when the real war began, said Jonathan Lord of the Center for a New American Security.

This is all to say nothing of the plight of embattled civilians in Gaza, where theres a looming risk of famine. On Tuesday, 12 Palestinians drowned off Gazas coast trying to get to airdropped aid packages that landed in the sea.

Republican Rep. John Moolenaar will take over as chairman of the House China committee after the current chairman, Mike Gallagher, announced his early retirement. (Read more on what that influential committee has been up to here.)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has fired Oleksiy Danilov as head of Ukraines National Security and Defense Council and replaced him with Oleksandr Lytvynenko. Lytvynenko had previously been the chief of Ukraines foreign intelligence service.

U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Martin Griffiths will leave his post in June after three years on the job, he announced on X (formerly Twitter) on Monday.

Annelle Sheline has stepped down from her State Department appointment as a foreign affairs officer in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor in protest of the Biden administrations support for Israel in its war in Gaza.

What should be high on your radar, if it isnt already.

Washington gets another cyber wake-up call. Sanctions and criminal charges brought by the United States and United Kingdom against a Chinese state-linked hacking group this week are a stark reminder of the need to upgrade U.S. critical infrastructure systems, the countrys top cyberdefense official told our FP colleague Rishi Iyengar in an interview.

Chinese cyber actors are very sophisticated; they are well-resourced, said Jen Easterly, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. But they are getting into our critical infrastructure because of defects in our technologies.

Shot to the heart. Ukraine is trying to compensate for a dearth of Western ammunition and aid by using long-range drone strikes to target Russian oildespite reported opposition from the Biden administration. Ukraine has conducted a dozen attacks on Russian oil refineries, which has hurt the Kremlins ability to process crude oil, experts tell our FP colleague Keith Johnson.

Ukraine courts India. Ukraines foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, is visiting New Delhi this week to meet with his Indian counterpart, S. Jaishankar. Its another example of Ukraines effort to shore up support from the global south, but Indias long-standing relationship with Russia will serve as heavy baggage on the trip.

Kuleba is undeterred. Every conversation we are having is built on the idea that countries will be aligned more with us rather than with Russia, he said in response to a question from Rishi at a pre-visit briefing. He called Ukraine and India two big democracies who essentially share some very fundamental approaches to understanding security and the way the world should function.

Russian Emergency Situations Ministry cadets lay flowers at a makeshift memorial in front of the burnt-out Crocus City Hall concert venue where Islamic State-affiliated gunmen killed more than 140 people, outside Moscow, on March 26.Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP

Thursday, March 28: Poland and Ukraine continue to hold talks on the agricultural dispute between the two allied countries.

Sunday, March 31: Turkey holds local elections.

Tuesday, April 2: Senegalese President Macky Salls mandate is set to expire.

Wednesday, April 3: NATO foreign ministers begin a two-day meeting in Brussels.

Thursday, April 4: NATO celebrates the 75th anniversary of its founding. Kuwait holds its general election.

If thats the case, what the hell is the point of the U.N.?

Matt Lee, diplomatic reporter for The Associated Press, asks the State Departments spokesperson, Matthew Miller, why the Biden administration is downplaying the impact of the U.N. resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza from which the United States abstained.

View post:

Biden-Netanyahu Tensions Over U.N. Abstention and Rafah Offensive Roil U.S.-Israel Ties - Foreign Policy

Related Posts


Comments are closed.

matomo tracker