Blinken, “Dehumanizing”; Biden, “Over the top”

TORONTO – Who knows? February 8, 2024, may be the turning point in Israeli-US relations, The clues are in two press conference – one by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in Tel Aviv, the other by President Joe Biden in Washington. 

It is virtually impossible to [under]estimate the reverberations of those relations in the world of political dynamics as they to relate to the Greater Middle East, petroleum economics and the stability of politics associated with countries bordering the Mediterranean basin.

Without the USA, Israel might as well be alone. Good luck. That would be most unfortunate and absolutely regrettable from the point of view of those who, for decades, have marvelled at the achievements of a country that stood for the expansion of civil rights and the benefits of economic growth for all.

It has not been easy. Somehow, Israel has become its own “existential threat”. Under Bibi Netanyahu, Israel is behaving as the “tail wagging the [USA] dog”. As a result, it risks isolation in pursuing an “up your nose with a rubber hose” diplomacy, as in its scorched earth policy regarding the Gaza Strip.

“The Strip”, a parcel of land 360 square km in size (barely25% larger than Mississauga, Ontario, but with 312% of its population) has no natural resources, no military and no food and health resources to satisfy the needs of its people.

Yet, it has displaced virtually every other location as a “place of concern”. Four months after it “invaded” Israel, the Strip has become a pile of rubble, entirely dependent on foreign humanitarian aid to escape starvation, disease and death. Newsreels and photos do not suggest Gaza has competitive defense tools to hold off any avenging angel.

The Times of Israel on Thursday, February 8, reported that Hamas-run relief agencies claim Israeli action in Gaza has left more than 27,000 Palestinians dead.  The same report says “Israel […] has killed over 10,000 Hamas gunmen in Gaza, and 1,000 more terrorists inside Israeli territory on October 7”.

It is an amazing statement for those who follow Arab-Israeli affairs. Beyond all expectations and imagination, on that day in October, “thousands of Hamas-led terrorists burst into Israel from the Gaza Strip, massacring 1,200 people (revised downward from the initial 1,400), mostly civilians, and abducting 253 people of all ages”, it says – but does not explain ‘how’?

The outside world – neither pro-Palestinian, nor anti-Semitic – is pushing for restoration of peace. A proposed outline for a hostage release agreement that would be followed by a truce last week was presented by Qatari and Egyptian mediators and backed by the United States and Israel.

It hit a dead end when Israeli PM, Bibi Netanyahu, cut the discussions short describing Hamas’ proposals as “delusional”, stressing there would be “no compromise”.

An obviously disappointed Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who had to brief USA President Biden, expressed a never-expected US reaction saying that “de-humanising opponents” is never acceptable.

President Biden did not seem to take it well either, choosing to describe the Israeli response […as…] over the top. Bibi Netanyahu, sitting at 14% popularity among the Israeli population, is losing the “public relations war”. That cannot be good.

Anthony Blinken and Bibi Netanyahu during a meeting; in the center photo, President Joe Biden in the conference on February 8 (photo from Twitter X – @SecBlinken / @POTUS)