Biden’s support for Gaza genocide is fueling bigger war

A boy holds a mock rocket during a demonstration against a US-led operation to safeguard Red Sea shipping, Sana’a, Yemen, 12 January.

Osamah Yahya ZUMA Press Wire

More than 100 days in, President Joe Biden’s unwavering commitment to Israel’s genocide in Gaza has so far cost the lives of an estimated 32,200 Palestinians, put the integrity of international law to the test, and is now seemingly threatening the United States’ own interests, as Washington escalates a regional war that it claims it doesn’t want.

Biden has firmly positioned himself as a full partner to Israel’s military campaign despite acknowledgingmore than once – the indiscriminate nature of its bombing in Gaza, essentially admitting to aiding and abetting war crimes.

Accordingly, Biden and his secretaries of state and defense are being sued for their failure to prevent a genocide and their complicity in the genocide unfolding in Gaza.

The Biden administration’s “no daylight,” unconditional support for Israel has provided so much leeway that Tel Aviv has no way of climbing down from its stated war objectives, despite having achieved none (dozens of captives remain in Gaza and Hamas’ command and control appears to be in tact, to say nothing of the resistance being waged by multiple factions against Israeli ground forces).

No victory is on the horizon for Israel, to say the least.

The US is putting itself in a similarly intractable position as it lobs bombs in a regional tinderbox, setting off a series of consequences that it will find increasingly difficult to control.

Washington is now bombing Yemen, despite acknowledging doing so has little deterrent effect, after the US and UK launched air strikes across the country last week following an alleged missile and drone attack in the direction of an American cargo ship and Navy vessels surrounding it days earlier.

The Biden administration claims that the US is “not interested in … a war with Yemen,” as White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said last Friday. The New York Times asked that same day: “The regional war no one wanted is here. How wide will it get?”

The answer depends on how long the US prolongs the genocide in Gaza, as the regional escalations are a direct result of Washington’s morally and strategically disastrous policy.

The US-UK airstrikes in Yemen were launched on the first day of the genocide hearings at the International Court of Justice at The Hague last week.

The US opposes those proceedings (Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrogantly dismissed South Africa’s genocide complaint against Israel as a “meritless” distraction, while White House spokesperson John Kirby said it was “completely without any basis in fact whatsoever”). Washington opposes any effective measure to hold Israel accountable, just as it opposes even efforts towards securing a ceasefire, repeatedly preventing the UN Security Council from issuing a legally binding call for one.

Biden’s regional predicament is one of his own making as he has inserted himself as a full partner to Israel’s genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.

His administration’s support for Israel’s military campaign, now surpassing 100 days, has resulted in hostilities between Israel and Lebanon that are on the brink of a full-scale war.

Washington’s material and diplomatic support for the genocidal campaign in Gaza has invited attacks on American targets in Syria and Iraq, where US strikes on 4 January – killing a militia leader in Baghdad – raised the ire of that country’s government.

And now the US is engaged in direct military confrontation with Ansarullah, the de facto government of Yemen, which has for weeks maintained a naval blockade to prevent commercial ships from reaching Israeli ports.

Ansarullah’s aims

Ansarullah has made clear that its intervention in the Red Sea is aimed at exacting an economic cost on Israel for the genocide in Gaza, a form of pressure to bring the bloodshed and humanitarian catastrophe to an end.

Yemen’s solidarity with Gaza is compelled by its own experience of foreign military occupation and starvation born of blockade and being subjected to a years-long Saudi air campaign backed by Washington and London. Surely Ansarullah and its supporters see the fates of Palestinians in Gaza and people in Yemen as intertwined, and that taking action to curtail the genocide in Gaza also serves to protect Yemen’s own long-term security.

Ansarullah’s objective is in direct contradiction to the US policy of prolonging the war and shielding Israel from any meaningful pressure to end it.

Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security advisor, said this week that the US-UK bombing of Yemen in response to Ansarullah’s intervention was a “defensive action.” He claimed that his administration was creating “the conditions for de-escalation” through “a combination of steady deterrence and steadfast diplomacy.”

Sullivan’s assertions are of course the opposite of reality – it’s pretty difficult for Washington to claim self-defense in the Red Sea – and the strikes violate both the UN Charter and US Constitution. Far from a diplomatic gesture, the State Department designated Ansarullah as a terrorist group on Wednesday, paving the way for sanctions that will “primarily harm civilians,” as the human rights watchdog DAWN said the following day.

Mohammed Al-Bukhaiti, a member of the political wing of Ansarullah, said that before the US-UK airstrikes on Yemen, his group had targeted only ships heading towards Israeli ports or owned by Israeli entities (however, DAWN says that “at least some of the ships it has attacked appear to have no connection to Israel”). Al-Bukhaiti added that the goal wasn’t to sink or seize the vessels but to cause them to reroute and thus provide a means of applying economic pressure on Israel.

The Yemeni attacks on shipping have resulted in no reports of injuries or fatalities, unlike the deadly US-UK airstrikes.

Al-Bukhaiti said that the US-British strikes have set new and permanent rules of engagement in the Red Sea.

“This is the moment we have been waiting for, that the battle is directly between us and America and Britain,” Al-Bukhaiti said. He added that the world now sees clearly the two sides: “Yemen, which is bravely trying to stop this genocide [in Gaza] and America-Britain, who are protecting the perpetrators.”

On Monday, Yahya Sare’e, the spokesperson for the Yemeni Armed Forces, said that “all American and British ships and warships involved in the aggression against our country are considered hostile targets by the Yemeni Armed Forces.”

He reiterated that the blockade on Israeli navigation would continue “until the aggression stops and the siege on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip is lifted.”

Later that day, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards attacked what they said were espionage centers in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq, “in an area near the US consulate,” according to Reuters.

The consequences of the US-Israeli genocide in Gaza have rippled out even further geographically as Iran and Pakistan carried out airstrikes on each other’s territory along their shared border this week.

The longer the war drags on in Gaza, the greater the risk of an even more consequential regional escalation, as the UN secretary-general and others have made clear.

A lengthy and messy conflagration is what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be after, to save his own skin and to force the US to intervene in a potential military confrontation with Iran.

In his speech marking 100 days of war, Netanyahu said that in addition to its campaign in Gaza, Israel has “another, constant, existential mission – to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons.”

“This is my mission. This is our mission,” Netanyahu added. “I told Secretary of State Blinken: This needs to be your highest mission too.”

No good options?

Last week, a headline in Foreign Policy stated that “Biden has no good options in Yemen.”

That appears to presuppose that a ceasefire in Gaza is not an option, or if it is an option, that it isn’t a good one, and that the use of force is the only course of action available to Biden (albeit an apparently ineffective one, as the US now acknowledges that its airstrikes barely made a dent in Ansarullah’s military capacity).

But because engaging in diplomacy to end the genocide in Gaza isn’t viewed as a reasonable option by Biden (and apparently the mouthpieces of empire), the US is willing to risk the lives of people in the region as well as its armed forces – all for a most reprehensible aim.

As morally repugnant as Biden’s current policy may be, it is a continuation of his disastrous Middle East policy as a whole, which until 7 October sought to bypass Palestinians, including those under siege in Gaza, and their aspirations and inalienable rights entirely.

The US support for Israel’s military campaign in Gaza is an extension of longstanding efforts to impose regime change in the territory after Hamas assumed control over its internal affairs in 2007 and Israel imposed a severe blockade of collective punishment enforced by Egypt and its allies.

The siege on Gaza was and is a form of collective punishment aimed at, applying severe economic pressure on Palesinians in a bid to get them to turn against Hamas, which refuses to give up armed struggle against Israeli occupation and colonization.

Meanwhile, Washington props up the Palestinian Authority, which is deeply unpopular among Palestinians as it does little more than serve as an authoritarian policing arm of the Israeli occupation.

Bilateral negotiations are stalled as Israeli leaders in multiple governments have been firm in their opposition to a Palestinian state.

Correctly identifying an impasse, but not addressing the key role played by the US in materially supporting Israel’s forever occupation, the last two administrations in Washington have sought to marginalize the rights-based demands of the Palestinian people entirely. They both pursued normalization deals between Israel and neighboring despotic states while treating the Palestinian situation as something that could be ignored or “conflict-managed” indefinitely.

The Biden administration’s oft-repeated variations of the mantra that “Israelis and Palestinians deserve equal measures of freedom, dignity, security and prosperity” are not far off from the “Peace to Prosperity” language used by the Trump administration to describe its framework vis-a-vis Palestinians and Israelis.

The Trump administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” scheme attempted to substitute the Palestinian goal of national liberation with economic inducements, while maintaining a permanent state of military occupation and apartheid.

That itself was a rehash of the Obama administration’s approach of supporting “economic peace” in the occupied West Bank under the banner of Palestinian “state-building.”

Adalah, a group that advocates for the rights of Palestinians in Israel, said that the Trump proposal was “no more than an attempt to bypass international legal barriers and to ignore Palestinians’ right to self-determination.”

Biden’s legacy

Little fundamentally changed when Biden took office as his administration continued to push Trump’s keystone normalization policy while sidelining the Palestinians.

Prior to 7 October, the Biden administration had obscured the rights-based demands of a colonized people with the language of “tensions between Israelis and Palestinians,” as typified in an optimistic speech that national security advisor Jake Sullivan gave at The Atlantic Festival in late September.

“The amount of time that I have to spend on crisis and conflict in the Middle East today compared to any of my predecessors going back to 9/11 is significantly reduced,” Sullivan said at the time.

Middle East crisis will now be Biden’s foreign policy legacy, the horrors of the genocide in Gaza potentially eclipsing even the disastrous proxy war pushed by Washington that has resulted in a bloody impasse in Ukraine.

Hamas’ military operation on 7 October sought to disrupt efforts to liquidate the Palestinian cause after a quarter-century of a US-led sham “peace process” that only bought Israel time to seize and build on more Palestinian land.

Osama Hamdan, a member of Hamas’ politburo, told the Turkish outlet TRT that its military operation was a response to the accelerated colonization of Palestinian land by the Netanyahu government. He also said that the operation succeeded in its aim of putting the Palestinian liberation cause back on the international agenda.

“If that was indeed Hamas’ aim to bring the Palestinian cause right to the forefront of international dialogue, you’re correct, it succeeded,” the TRT interviewer replied.

“There are countries that had maybe parked the two-state solution and the future of the Palestinians somewhere in the background of their activities, but now the whole world is talking about it,” the TRT anchor added.

Similarly, Hizballah’s opening of the front along Lebanon’s border with Israel on 8 October in solidarity with Gaza, and military intervention by resistance organizations in Yemen and Iraq, are reshaping the power dynamics in the region.

During a recent speech, Hizballah leader Hasan Nasrallah insisted that only a ceasefire in Gaza would allow for talks to end hostilities across the Lebanon-Israel boundary.

Likewise, Nasrallah said that security in the Red Sea is entirely dependent on ending Israel’s aggression on Gaza.

He also rejected attempts by the US to cast resistance groups as proxies of Tehran, saying that Yemen acts independently and that “the Yemeni response is decided by the Yemenis.”

Biden doubles down

Biden is doubling down on the policies that created the conditions for the catastrophic crisis in Palestine and the escalating regional war.

Axios reports that the US is frustrated with Israel, because, among other reasons, Netanyahu’s government refuses to “seriously discuss plans for the day after the war and his rejection of the US plan for a reformed Palestinian Authority to have a role in post-Hamas Gaza.”

Blinken reportedly told Netanyahu and his war cabinet that their post-war plans for Gaza – which envisions “a multinational task force to rebuild the enclave” without the presence of the Palestinian Authority, as Reuters reports – was “pie in the sky,” a US official said to Axios.

But the Biden administration suffers from its own delusions – first, the assumption that there will be a “post-Hamas Gaza” (as Hizballah’s Nasrallah noted, Israel’s military has accomplished nothing but killing and destruction for the last 100 days) and second, that they could reimpose the Palestinian Authority on a population which holds it in great contempt.

Inconceivable to them is the notion that Palestinians and Palestinians alone should determine how they should be governed. Indeed, this adamant rejection of Palestinian self-determination is at the heart of the conflict, and to continue to deny it guarantees more suffering and bloodshed.

And yet the Biden administration is staying the course.

According to HuffPost, White House official Brett McGurk, who has played a key role in shaping Middle East policy under both Trump and Biden, “is leading post-war Gaza planning in Washington.” McGurk envisions the rebuilding of Gaza with the normalization of ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia as its cornerstone.

“McGurk’s plan would use the incentive of aid for reconstruction from Saudi Arabia and possibly other wealthy Gulf countries like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to pressure both the Palestinians and the Israelis,” HuffPost reported, citing three unnamed US officials.

“In this vision, Palestinian leaders would agree to a new government for both Gaza and the occupied West Bank and to ratchet down their criticisms of Israel, while Israel would accept limited influence in Gaza.”

According to HuffPost, critics in the US government say that McGurk’s scheme reflects “the Biden administration’s pre-Oct. 7 approach of treating the Palestinians as an afterthought,” and could doom the region to “cycles of unprecedented violence.”

Treating the Palestinians as an afterthought might be too generous a description of the Biden administration’s calculations. In his statement “marking 100 days of captivity for hostages in Gaza,” Biden made no mention of the tens of thousands of Palestinians killed during that time, or the hundreds of Palestinians rounded up by Israeli troops in both Gaza and the West Bank.

It would seem that neither Palestinian suffering or political aspirations receive much if any consideration or sympathy from Biden’s White House.

McGurk’s “day after” scheme indicates not only Washington’s indifference to the rights and wishes of Palestinians, but also its refusal to acknowledge the new reality shaped by resistance forces of various nationalities since 7 October.

Those resistance forces are an indigenous response to foreign occupation and war either imposed or backed by the US.

With those resistance groups at a stage of maturation, no longer can Israel, armed and shielded by Washington, do whatever it wants to the Palestinians without incurring a cost to both itself and its chief benefactor.

The genocide in Gaza is strengthening the belief in the region that resistance is imperative – not just as a deterrent to the existential threat posed by Israel, but as the only realistic path to liberation, sovereignty and self-determination.

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.