Between Strategic Interests and Humanitarian Values: US Policy in the Middle East

In a world where diplomatic relations can be as fragile as glass, the upcoming call between President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is more than just a routine check-in between allies.

by Faruk Imamovic
Between Strategic Interests and Humanitarian Values: US Policy in the Middle East
© Getty Images/Lior Mizrahi

The upcoming call between President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is more than just a routine check-in between allies. Scheduled for Thursday, this conversation arrives at a critical juncture, not only testing the strained ties between the leaders but also casting a spotlight on the contradictions within US policy toward the ongoing war in Gaza.

This conflict, simmering with the potential to upset the political futures of both Biden and Netanyahu, has evolved into a litmus test for international diplomacy and the resilience of long-standing alliances.

Escalating Tensions Amidst Diplomatic Paradoxes

The United States, historically a staunch ally of Israel, finds itself in a precarious position as it navigates the delicate balance of supporting Israel while expressing growing concerns over the humanitarian impact of its military strategies in Gaza.

The killing of seven aid workers in a recent Israeli offensive has sparked outrage, prompting President Biden to publicly voice his frustration. Yet, amidst this turmoil, the US is seemingly proceeding with an $18 billion sale of F-15 warplanes to Israel, a move that underlines the complexities and contradictions of its Middle Eastern policy.

Simultaneously, the White House's warnings against a planned assault on Rafah, fearing a humanitarian catastrophe, juxtapose sharply with the continued military support, highlighting the challenges of aligning strategic interests with humanitarian values.

This duality in US policy not only raises questions about the effectiveness of its stance but also reflects the intricate dance of diplomacy, where principles often grapple with pragmatism.

A Convergence of Political Predicaments

The Biden-Netanyahu call also unfolds against a backdrop of increasing domestic pressures and seemingly irreconcilable political priorities.

With the November elections looming, President Biden is under immense pressure to quell the discontent among progressives within his political coalition. Conversely, Prime Minister Netanyahu, facing potential electoral defeat, may see prolonging the conflict as a means to consolidate his political standing.

This juxtaposition of domestic imperatives adds another layer of complexity to the call, suggesting that the stakes extend far beyond the immediate geopolitical tensions to touch the very cores of political survival for both leaders.

US Vice President Joe Biden Visits Israel© Getty Images

The Delicate Balance of Support and Criticism

At the heart of the Biden-Netanyahu call is a fundamental contradiction in US foreign policy. On one hand, the United States has expressed clear frustrations with the Israeli military's conduct, particularly its impact on civilian populations in Gaza.

The tragic deaths of seven aid workers have intensified these concerns, leading to Biden's public denouncement and a demand for Israel to revise its military strategies to protect non-combatants. Yet, despite these criticisms, the bedrock of US support for Israel remains unshaken, evidenced by the proposed $18 billion sale of F-15 warplanes.

This dichotomy underscores a broader challenge facing US diplomacy: how to effectively advocate for humanitarian principles while safeguarding strategic interests. John Kirby's statement, emphasizing the "genocidal" threat posed by Hamas to Israel, reflects the US's complex position—condemning actions that compromise civilian safety while reiterating unwavering support for Israel's right to defend itself against terrorism.

A Regional Powder Keg

The implications of the Biden-Netanyahu discourse extend beyond bilateral relations, touching upon the volatile dynamics of the Middle East. The recent Israeli strike on senior Iranian officers in Syria, attributed by the US to Israel, has inflamed tensions, raising fears of a broader regional conflict.

Such developments not only put US troops in the region at risk but also test Biden's resolve to prevent the escalation of hostilities. This precarious situation is further complicated by the leaders' domestic pressures. Biden's political survival hinges on pacifying progressive discontent and securing a peaceful resolution to the Gaza conflict ahead of critical elections.

In contrast, Netanyahu's political future may depend on prolonging the conflict, a strategy that risks deepening Israel's international isolation and exacerbating internal dissent.

The Domestic Front

Both Biden and Netanyahu face formidable challenges at home, with their political destinies intertwined with the unfolding crisis.

The Democratic primary's protest vote against Biden's handling of the war underscores a growing disillusionment within his base, reflecting the broader discontent with his administration's Middle East policy. Similarly, Netanyahu confronts a fractious political landscape, with mounting protests and calls for new elections signaling a crisis of confidence in his leadership.

These domestic pressures not only shape the leaders' diplomatic postures but also raise questions about the sustainability of their political alliances.

A Pivotal Moment for Diplomacy and Leadership

The Biden-Netanyahu call epitomizes a pivotal moment in international diplomacy, where the interplay of domestic politics, strategic interests, and humanitarian values converge.

As both leaders prepare to engage in this critical conversation, the world watches closely, aware that the decisions made in this moment could reshape the geopolitical landscape and redefine the contours of US-Israel relations.

Joe Biden Benjamin Netanyahu