Inside the Biden administration sham to convince the world Netanyahu wants a ceasefire – Mondoweiss

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The shameless cover the United States has extended for Israel has taken on new dimensions of theatrics as pressure grows for Joe Biden to put a stop to the genocidal slaughter that has been going on in Gaza for seven months now.

That theater has often veered into the absurd, as, just to cite one example, when the President has complained about Israel not allowing humanitarian aid in to Gaza—an unambiguous war crime under international law—only to have  administration spokespeople assert that they have “no evidence” that Israel has broken international law. 

Biden has shifted his public image, going from unbridled support for every Israeli atrocity to a transparently phony appearance of trying to “restrain” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In fact, Biden has not let up one iota in his absolute support for everything Israel has done up to this point. 

The change in rhetoric was wholly insincere, a response not to Israel’s crimes but to Biden’s people finally getting it through his head that he was jeopardizing his re-election chances by unconditionally supporting Netanyahu’s genocidal onslaught. Thus, he put on more of a sympathetic face, but did not make a single change in policy.

Rafah, however, presents a greater difficulty. It’s not because it would mean a massacre of innocent Palestinians that would stand out even from this seven month slaughter. We have ample evidence that such considerations do not bother Joe Biden and his Secretary of State Antony Blinken. 

Rather, it’s the reaction that is feared, and not only in Washington. Arab dictatorships are starting to show concern about their ability to contain the anger of their citizens, while protests in Europe are gaining more momentum, inspired by the courageous students in the United States. Türkiye has cut trade ties with Israel, and Columbia has severed all diplomatic contacts with Israel. 

All of this happened before an invasion of Rafah. It can be reasonably expected that things will get much worse when Israel launches its promised invasion. 

For all of these reasons, there is now a sense of the world holding its breath as a new ceasefire proposal is on the table. But it seems unlikely that Israel will allow a deal to be consummated.

A “Generous Offer” revisited

Long time observers will remember what it meant in 2000 when Israel offered the Palestinians a so-called “generous offer.” In fact, when one looked at the actual terms of the offer, it was far from generous, and called for virtual Palestinian surrender on key issues such as Jerusalem and the right of return, among other harsh compromises. 

Now, Blinken has declared that Hamas has another in a long line of generous offers from Israel. But it is unclear what exactly is being offered.

Reports of the offer’s contents have not been confirmed, and many of them conflict. But what seems to be on the table is another temporary pause where several dozen Israelis held in Gaza would be released in exchange for over 900 Palestinian prisoners. Some mechanism, possibly Egyptian security checks, would be employed to allow some people to return to the north of Gaza. 

But Israel is absolutely unwilling to declare an end to its operations. That might have been something that could have been worked around diplomatically, through extended negotiations. The idea of an “extended period of calm” is another bit of wordplay that has been thrown into the mix by negotiators looking for a formula that would allow Netanyahu to claim the onslaught is continuing while operations effectively cease.

That sort of diplomatic chicanery would seem to have been mooted by Netanyahu’s repeated declarations, both in public and in his meeting with Blinken, that he will invade Rafah regardless of whether there is a truce or not. Israeli officials, as well as the prime minister, doubled down on this declaration when they realized that Hamas was prepared to agree to the deal.  

Rather than push back on Netanyahu, Blinken decided to do what this administration always does, and support Netanyahu. While continuing to maintain that the Biden administration won’t support an invasion of Rafah without a “credible plan to protect civilians,” he also said that the decision on the current proposal is entirely in Hamas’ hands. This, despite the fact that Israel has not agreed to it either.d  The far-right that would collapse this government if Netanyahu agrees to the deal may be the primary reason, but the so-called “moderates” like Benny Gantz seem to be fully on board with that obstinacy. 

Blinken dismissed Netanyahu’s repeated vows to go into Rafah no matter what. “It’s clear [the Israelis] like to see [the hostage deal] happen,” Blinken said, going on to add about Netanyahu’s threats that, “people say things; let’s focus on what they’re doing, what we’re doing.”

Certainly there’s no reason to take Netanyahu at his word about anything. He has established himself as a man with no credibility at all, a description even most Israelis would concur with. It’s also worth noting that Blinken spoke with opposition leader Yair Lapid on this trip, and the two discussed the potential for Lapid to agree to save Netanyahu’s government should the ultra-right parties led by Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir bolt, as they have promised to do if Netanyahu agrees to this deal. 

More concerning is this dismissal of Netanyahu’s threats. He may not be an honest person, but he is also a defiant man who believes that a prolonged war is in his best interests, and perhaps has even convinced himself that it is in his country’s interest as well. While the Biden administration has repeatedly said they “will not support” a Rafah invasion, they have not said there would be consequences if Israel goes ahead. In other words, they have done absolutely nothing to actually deter Netanyahu. This is how Biden has dealt with Israel since the day he took office.

The show must go on

Hamas’ initial reaction to this latest proposal was negative, but they have since indicated a willingness to consider it more closely and have maintained all along that they will continue negotiations and see something to work with here. Finally, it began to appear that they would accept the agreement, as they should.

It may well be that Hamas believes that even a few weeks would allow the Palestinian civilians who are currently jammed like sardines into Rafah to spread back out to the north and lessen some of the potential for horror when Israel does invade. As the plan does not, apparently, call for an immediate release of all the captives in Gaza, they would still have some leverage.

But the basic calculus that it is not in Hamas’ interest to agree to a temporary, rather than a permanent, ceasefire stands. Moreover, they may also believe that a temporary pause will take some of the political pressure off Israel, which could embolden them to renewed brutality in a few weeks.

Whatever one thinks of Hamas, those are legitimate considerations. And so, Blinken has put on a performance to make sure that Hamas is blamed if this deal falls through. Netanyahu’s threats don’t mean anything, he is telling us. We should look at this actions.

That would be the onslaught that has featured daily war crimes, the murder of over 34,000, including over 14,000 children, the complete destruction of health, education, and civic infrastructure in the Strip, the deliberate starvation of an entire population and a whole host of other appalling acts. 

Blinken understands that merely pausing the Israeli assault means little if the genocide is just going to resume in a few weeks. He also understand that if people leave Rafah and Israel then forces out some portion of those who remain to the tent city it has set up a few kilometers away, the Biden administration can suddenly decide this is a “credible plan,” and Netanyahu can enter Rafah.

As I’ve noted before, Netanyahu is in no great hurry to destroy Rafah. A drawn out so-called “war” suits him well, as it keeps him in office and out of jail for a longer time. 

Blinken seems to be playing the same game. He praises Israel for allowing humanitarian aid in, even though it is Israel’s legal responsibility not just to allow that aid, but to facilitate it. And, while more aid has gotten into Gaza, it is not nearly enough to address the burgeoning famine, according to the United Nations and the World Food Program

Blinken insists that Israel “wants a deal,” despite the fact that, from the day these people were kidnapped into Gaza, Israel has done virtually nothing to get them out. Instead, their soldiers gunned down three such hostages and Israel’s bombings have undoubtedly killed many more. There is not and has never been any indication in the deeds, as opposed to words, of Israel’s prime minister that the hostages matter to him at all. 

More and more people, and even some governments, are recognizing the destructive stance Israel has taken. Blinken knows it too. And, while he may be sympathetic to Netanyahu’s bloodlust, political and diplomatic realities press him to make a show of reining Netanyahu in at least a little.

But theater is all it is. The reality has been made clear over and over by the blind support and flow of arms Biden and Blinken have showered Israel with, while it bathes in the blood of Palestinian  innocents. 

This deal may still be rejected by Hamas, and I would call that a tactical error, as well as an ethical tragedy, on their part if they do choose that path. Accepting the deal will force Netanyahu to find ways to violate it so he could continue his operations, while it would allow some relief to starving Palestinians, even if returning to the north—where many will find only rubble where their homes used to be—may well be a very small comfort. 

But it is abundantly clear that Netanyahu, with his repeated guarantees to invade Rafah under any circumstances, is trying to ensure that no agreement is reached, precisely because he fears Hamas will accept it. Blinken’s shameful role in perpetuating this revolting masquerade is hardly something new in this loathsome and bloody affair. But maybe this time more people with some power to impact the situation will see it for the sham it is. 

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