In recent days US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken He was captured by the prince of Saudi Arabia, and the president of Egypt gave him a strange history lesson. American officials They failed to unequivocally condemn most Arab leaders Publishing statements supporting a Hamas attack on Israel or an Israeli military response.
This may indicate a waning US influence in the region. China and Russia are increasingly emboldened to take America’s place and are achieving some success — not without Washington’s fault.
America’s unequivocal support for Israel — different from the nuanced positions the U.S. usually takes in Middle East conflicts — could be one The biggest obstacles to improving relations with regional countries.
“It’s too soon”
The US scored a diplomatic victory in Israel on Tuesday when the two countries agreed to develop A program to provide humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip – Hamas-ruled territory currently under Israeli siege.
The Hamas attack on Israel has been so massive and brutal (it has led to the deaths of 1,200 Israelis) that many regional leaders are still considering what stance to take on the conflict.
“Because the situation is at such an early stage, American diplomacy has been as successful as we could have hoped,” said Kait al-Omari, a former adviser to the Palestinian Authority. – However, it is too early to talk about a significant progress – he added.
Joe Biden’s trip to Israel on Wednesday This complicates the task.
Various Palestinian groups – including Hamas – may consider this a provocation. President Biden will meet with some Arab leaders in Jordan and visit Israel in a show of solidarity. The US administration did not want Arab officials to view his move as disrespectful.
The face of American diplomacy
“Biden going there would send a clear signal that America is on Israel’s side on this issue,” said Jonathan Shanzer, an analyst at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington. “It will anger parts of the Arab world, but I think it’s important for the region that the administration doesn’t hesitate,” he said.
Officials and analysts warn against writing off the US, noting that behind-the-scenes talks could be more fruitful than expected. Primarily Arab leaders do not want to publicly say or do things that anger their communities. And support for the Palestinian cause is high among them.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in Tel Aviv. October 16, 2023
Anthony Blinken has become the face of American diplomatic pressure. In the past few days, he has visited Israel and six Arab countries, some of them twice. Significantly, he emphasized Agree on some basic goalsincluding the desire to prevent Expanding the conflict between Israel and Hamas into a wider regional war.
“What I have heard from every partner is a resolute, shared vision to do everything possible to ensure that the war does not spread elsewhere,” he told reporters on Sunday. He mentioned that the agreement was made to protect the lives of innocent people in the Gaza Strip and to help the Palestinians.
However, the US has some influence
American actions to convince Egypt is set to open a border crossing to allow Palestinians with foreign citizenship to leave the Gaza Strip Still not successful.
Egypt blames Israel, whose bombings and other actions prevent Cairo from sending humanitarian aid to Palestinians in need in the Gaza Strip.
Egyptians are wary of any suggestion of accepting Palestinians fleeing the Gaza Strip. Cairo fears that Israel will never allow them to return, which could echo previous permanent displacements of Palestinians.
There are many indications that America has some influence over Israel. Politicians in the United States and many other countries worked effectively behind the scenes to push Israel back from its initial withdrawal. Announcements to evacuate approximately one million people living in the northern Gaza Strip.
– A Biden administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Israeli side had heard from the entire US government that it was concerned about the project.
Joe Biden’s disappointment
Early Tuesday morning, Anthony Blinken announced in Tel Aviv The United States and Israel “agreed to develop a program that would allow humanitarian aid from donor countries and international organizations to civilians in the Gaza Strip.” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller drew attention to the announcement, criticizing information released before the plan was revealed.
— While POLITICO was preparing this story, Secretary Blinken was negotiating a plan to begin providing humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, which will be needed. Multi-day consultations in the region Matthew Miller said. “He will continue his vigorous diplomatic efforts to ensure that Israel defends itself and prevents the escalation of the conflict,” he added.
To the chagrin — but not necessarily surprise — of the Joe Biden administration, Arab countries have condemned Hamas. They took a balanced stance or remained silent. If some of them openly criticize the Palestinian Authority – as the United Arab Emirates has done – this is usually accompanied by statements calling on both sides to exercise restraint.
The attack by the Palestinian group turned out to be very deadly. Hamas killed many people and took many hostages. Israel’s retaliation has led to the deaths of several thousand Palestinians, although Israel says it is eradicating Hamas.
A priority for US diplomats
This raises fears for the fate of the more than two million Palestinian citizens trapped in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli blockade led there Severe shortage of water, fuel and electricity.
Already, several Israeli airstrikes have displaced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians into the enclave ahead of the Israeli ground invasion of the Gaza Strip. Few believe Washington can or wants to stop it.
Secretary Blinken reportedly told Arab officials that this time around the fight against Hamas “cannot be business as usual.” At the same time, there are some Arab governments Contact with this Palestinian organization. Few leaders are well aware that many ordinary citizens strongly support the Palestinian cause that Hamas claims to be fighting for.
Qatar is home to some of Hamas’ top leaders and is home to the organization’s political office. The small Arab state is working on a diplomatic priority for the US and other countries: freeing the hostages (some of whom are non-Israeli citizens).
At the same time, powerful Arab countries – Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – fear Iran. A major patron of Hamas. In addition, the Iranian regime supports Hezbollah, a Lebanese group that has clashed with Israel.
Biden’s new language
In recent days, Joe Biden has changed his rhetoric, moving away from clear support for Israel. Concerns over the security of Palestinian citizens. Also, the US President warned Israel that the occupation of the Gaza Strip is not worth the costs.
However, Joe Biden and America have been around for a long time More pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian. This increases discontent in the area.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in Jordan. October 17, 2023
Khalid Elkindi, an analyst at the Middle East Institute in Washington, argued that President Biden’s recent comments came too late. He argued that what the US administration initially said was a message that resonated loudly among Arabs. “Regulatory announcements must be made on a continuous basis, otherwise they are meaningless,” Elkindi added. And “if they’re not public, they don’t count.”
Antony Blinken has traveled from country to country, but the treatment some Arab leaders have received may raise eyebrows.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi lectured him on the suffering of Palestinians under Israeli occupation and said that Jews had never been persecuted in Egypt.
“Without American leadership, we would be in a very difficult situation.”
“It is true that what has happened in the last nine days is very difficult, very difficult, and we condemn it unequivocally,” President Sisi said. “But we have to understand that this is the result of four decades of accumulated anger and hatred when there was no hope of finding a solution for the Palestinians,” he added.
On the other hand Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman Secretary Blingen advised him to study for several hours before the Sunday meeting. He also called for an end to “military operations that have claimed the lives of innocent people” in response to the Israeli attack, according to Saudi reports.
Saudi Arabia is reportedly suspending US-backed talks on normalizing diplomatic ties with Israel. A few days after the Hamas attack, the Saudi prince also spoke with the Iranian president.
Despite bearing the brunt of Yemen’s bloody proxy war Saudi Arabia and Iran recently restored diplomatic ties that were severed years ago. And it further confuses the issue of interests and rivalries in the region.
Still, some Arab officials cheer America’s diplomatic efforts. However, at the same time, they admit that it may take some time before they bring long-term results.
“I have no doubt that without American leadership we would be in a very difficult situation,” said one Arab diplomat. – The goal now is to stop the bleeding. Even though plasters were applied, the wound was too deep, he said.
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