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Protesters don’t want to know about Biden’s push for peace

With the UN Security Council now backing it, US officials will visit the region this week to put more pressure on Hamas ‘to say yes’.
Dan Coleman
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Man hosing down red paint in a fountain

A UCLA facilities maintenance worker washes stains off a fountain after pro-Palestinian demonstrators dyed the waters of the fountain red on June 11. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Published: 13 June 2024

Last updated: 13 June 2024

On June 1, The New York Times lead headline announced, “Biden Calls for End to Gaza War, Endorsing Israeli Cease-Fire Proposal”.    

Biden’s latest move highlights that, despite rampant criticism from the far Left and pro-Palestinian activists, the US president has been the most consistent and outspoken among world leaders in the cause of peace and for the protection of Palestinian lives.

Those lives are not the concern of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, who has hidden his terrorist enclaves beneath the civilians’ homes, schools, and hospitals, daring Israel to root out his forces.

Palestinian lives are hardly the concern of Benjamin Netanyahu who, with grim, self-serving arrogance, has accepted Sinwar’s dare, dismissive of the tragic loss of life from Israel’s incursion into Gaza.

Consider that, during Biden’s mid-October trip to the region, he warned Netanyahu, as reported by National Public Radio, “that a proportional response to the Hamas attacks means protecting the lives of innocent Palestinians”.

As White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said at the time, “we’ve been crystal clear about the need for humanitarian aid to be able to continue to flow into Gaza. That has been a consistent call by President Biden and certainly by this entire administration”. To that end, the administration has organised airlifts into Gaza and built a dock for unloading aid.

A barometer of the Biden administration’s commitment has been the astounding number of high-level diplomatic missions to the region. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has travelled to Israel, Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt during his eight trips to the Middle East. Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin has been to Qatar, Bahrain, and Egypt.  

Last week, CIA Director Bill Burns was in Doha meeting with Qatari leaders who are a direct negotiating link to Hamas while Middle East Coordinator Brett McGurk was in Cairo meeting with Egyptian negotiators.

Protesters want a ceasefire. Why won’t they speak out in support of Biden’s plan for one?

Rob Eshman, The Forward

Both trips are seen as part of a frantic push to bring both sides to agreement around what Biden characterised as “a comprehensive new [Israeli] proposal … a roadmap to an enduring ceasefire and the release of all hostages.”

Yet, for all these efforts, Biden remains the Rodney Dangerfield of Middle East politics. As the comedian Dangerfield’s tagline went, Biden “can’t get no respect”.

As Rob Eshman, senior columnist for The Forward, asked last week “Protesters want a ceasefire. Why won’t they speak out in support of Biden’s plan for one?”

Perhaps frustrated from months of witnessing largely performative, often antisemitic campus protests, Eshman described a hopeful visit to “the campus of UCLA, where I was overjoyed to see thousands of students demonstrating for Hamas and Israel to accept the deal. Their sea of signs read, ‘Hamas: Take the Deal!’ and ‘Bibi: Say Yes!’” 

But Eshman quickly brought his readers back to reality, adding “I’m kidding. There was nothing. No one. Bupkis.“ He contrasted this to “the case in Israel, where after Biden announced the ceasefire deal, 120,000 people took to the streets of Tel Aviv to push the government to accept it.”

Senator Bernie Sanders, a leading Jewish-American politician and long-standing advocate of the Palestinian cause, has had nothing to say about Biden’s ceasefire call. Meanwhile, Sanders took to Twitter three times in the past week to denounce the invitation for Netanyahu to address Congress later this month.

The response of America’s Jewish organisations has been muted. AIPAC, the most prominent among them where Israel is concerned, does not appear to have issued a press release on the topic.

Only J-Street stood up to praise Biden’s efforts. “This was a powerful display of presidential leadership,” J-Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a release. “The deal President Biden outlined offers a realistic, credible pathway out of this catastrophe. Immense pressure must now be brought to bear on Hamas to accept this deal to stop the war, free the hostages, and end this nightmare for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

For J-Street, it does not conflict with its pro-Israel mission to “continue to urge the Biden administration to ensure every measure is taken to adhere to the laws of war, stop the spread of famine in Gaza, and facilitate urgently needed humanitarian aid to families in desperate need.”

These words of support must be music to the ears of Biden’s re-election campaign, committed to keeping progressive Jewish voters in the Democratic fold, votes which could be essential to a tight margin of victory.

Yet, the fate of Biden’s initiative remains uncertain. Netanyahu did not do Biden any favours, pushing back on the President’s announcement by saying “The claim that we agreed to a ceasefire without our conditions being met is incorrect… [Biden’s] proposal is incomplete.”

We’re confident that Biden’s speech accurately reflects the Israeli proposal, a proposal that we worked with the Israelis on.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby

But National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters “As for the gaps, I don’t know what gaps you’re referring to… We’re confident that [Biden’s speech] accurately reflects that [Israeli] proposal — a proposal that we worked with the Israelis on, so I know of no gaps to speak of”.

Netanyahu and the War Cabinet have not formally responded to Biden’s initiative. Neither, of course, has Hamas. Jake Sullivan, Biden’s National Security Adviser, said last weekend he could not “put myself in the head of Hamas terrorists” but that “the whole world is looking to Hamas to say yes.”

Biden’s proposal was given a boost this week when the UN Security Council passed a resolution of support. Secretary of State Blinken is visiting Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Qatar to build pressure on both sides towards an agreement.

Ultimately, the fate of Biden’s initiative rests on whether Netanyahu and Sinwar are more intractable foes than Begin and Sadat 50 years ago or Rabin, Peres and

Arafat 30.

But, if the US-led amalgam of nations strategising toward peace is successful, someone may join these historic figures in receiving a Peace Prize for their efforts.

But that is hardly the prize sought by President Biden. Like Rodney Dangerfield, Joe Biden fundamentally just wants some respect, respect in the form of re-election to the White House.

NOTE: At time of publication, Hamas had added new conditions to Biden's UN-packed proposal. Its fate is, at the moment, uncertain.

About the author

Dan Coleman

Dan Coleman is a former member of the Carrboro, North Carolina Town Council, and a former political columnist for the Durham (NC) Morning Herald. He is the author of Ecopolitics: Building A Green Society. He lives in Melbourne.


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