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Biden’s Unbalanced Support for Israel Comes With a Heavy Price

The United States’ one-sided solidarity with Israel is widely perceived, particularly in the Middle East, as bestowing upon Israel a sense of impunity for its humanitarian violations in Gaza.


The magnitude and brutality of the October 7 attack by Hamas have sent shockwaves around the world, sharply dividing public opinion. In the aftermath of what marks the deadliest assault in Israel’s history, the United States promptly and consistently reaffirmed its unwavering support for Israeli actions against Hamas. In his initial response on the day of the incident and in subsequent speeches and statements, President Biden has stressed Israel’s right to self-defense. Washington also increased the amount of weapons supplied to Israel without robust monitoring or accountability measures to ensure Tel Aviv’s compliance with international laws of war.

President Biden’s unequivocal support and one-sided solidarity with Israel, even in the face of more than 14,000 Palestinians killed, is widely perceived, particularly in the Middle East, as bestowing upon Israel a tacit license and a sense of impunity for its humanitarian violations in Gaza. While this policy may be somewhat popular with the U.S. political leadership, it is undeniably shortsighted and laden with destructive potential.

This stance hampers the U.S. government’s capacity to engage effectively with governments in the Middle East, rendering American diplomacy ineffectual in its efforts to mediate this conflict. It has also reignited a torrent of anti-American sentiment in many Arab and Muslim communities. Furthermore, it imperils more civilian lives and exposes American troops in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iraq, to heightened risks and the looming prospects of being drawn into a broader regional conflict.

The Biden administration must employ all available means […] to prevent the situation in Gaza and the surrounding region from deteriorating into a full-blown war.

The Biden administration must employ all available means, starting with demanding a permanent ceasefire, to prevent the situation in Gaza and the surrounding region from deteriorating into a full-blown war and from reaching a point of no return.

Following the October 7 attacks, in addition to issuing new rounds of sanctions on Hamas, the Biden administration wasted no time in dispatching additional military aid to Israel, including military supplies such as ammunition and missile interceptors, with a promise to inflate this budget further from $3 billion to $14.3 billion. Furthermore, special operations forces were deployed to assist Israel’s military in planning and intelligence. Simultaneously, in a clear warning to Iran and its allies, the United States sent two carrier groups and additional aircraft to the region to serve as a deterrent signal, aiming to dissuade them from entering the conflict.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces have launched intensive attacks directed at residential areas and crucial civilian infrastructure within the densely populated enclave that houses 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza. The death toll in Gaza has now exceeded 14,000 with an additional 6,800 people missing and under the rubble, with a substantial 68 percent of reported fatalities being women and children. As of November 14, a staggering 41,000 housing units have reportedly been destroyed, with an additional 222,000 partially damaged. The scope of destruction has extended to vital civilian facilities, encompassing 285 educational institutions, 135 healthcare centers, 11 bakeries, grain houses, mosques, water pipes, sewage, and electricity networks. Moreover, Israel has intensified its unlawful 16-year blockade on Gaza, impeding essential services such as electricity, water, and fuel. This exacerbates the already dire humanitarian situation, a point that UN experts described as a “genocide in the making.” 

As criticism of U.S. policy began to mount, reports surfaced of reluctant appeals by President Biden and his administration to Israel, urging restraint and the reduction of Palestinian casualties. More recently, the United States has taken further steps by advocating for a ‘pause’ in the ongoing conflict, but has refrained from explicitly endorsing a ceasefire. However, this soft diplomacy falls short of demonstrating the United States’ commitment to protecting civilians on both sides of the conflict. Calls for restraint would carry more weight if accompanied by concrete steps or mechanisms implemented by the U.S. to safeguard civilians.

The sincerity of the Biden administration’s approach is further undermined by its biased public diplomacy

The sincerity of the Biden administration’s approach is further undermined by its biased public diplomacy. For instance, after the first bombing of the al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza on October 17, Biden promptly attributed the incident to Palestinian armed factions without presenting substantial evidence to support his claim. A more judicious approach would have involved calling for an independent investigation into this tragic incident, which resulted in the loss of 500 civilian lives. This is pertinent given that all of the U.S. Arab allies have placed responsibility for the bombing on Israel. Besides a significant delay in acknowledging the immense loss of Palestinian lives, Biden also downplayed the casualty numbers by casting doubt on the casualty figures provided by Palestinian officials in Gaza, even as international humanitarian agencies deemed them accurate and historically reliable.

Despite tarnishing the global image of the United States and fostering increased resentment, the Biden administration’s deterrent policy has shown signs of ineffectiveness. Not only did it fail to prevent Iranian-backed militias from launching attacks against Israel, but it also placed American troops in Syria and the wider region at risk. Iranian-backed groups remained undeterred by U.S. threats and have increased their military presence in the region. Hezbollah, for example, stated that the U.S. carrier deployment “will not frighten the peoples of our nation nor the Resistance factions,” that are ready for confrontation. To underscore their seriousness, Hezbollah, among other groups, launched attacks against Israel from Lebanon, Syria, and even Yemen.

In Syria, Iranian-backed militias conducted multiple missile attacks toward the Golan Heights, a region under Israeli occupation since 1967. In response, Israel targeted various locations across the country, including two Syrian airports, rendering both temporarily inoperable. In southern Lebanon, Hezbollah and other groups also engaged in back-and-forth skirmishes with Israel. Likewise, Yemen’s Houthi rebels have launched missile and drone attacks targeting Israel.

Moreover, President Biden’s unwavering support for Israel has exposed U.S. forces in Syria, as well as civilians living there, to heightened vulnerability. In the past month, American forces’ assets have been intensively targeted in Syria, parallel to similar activities against their military infrastructure in Iraq. These attacks were framed by Iranian-backed militias as a means to dissuade direct U.S. intervention in the Hamas-Israel conflict, and to exert pressure on both Washington and Tel Aviv to scale back military operations in Gaza.

Irrespective of their intended purpose, these attacks, fueled by the unbalanced U.S. policy, make Syria a stage for settling scores among foreign actors

Despite retaliatory strikes by the U.S. against those involved in Syria and Iraq, threats of escalating violence persist. Irrespective of their intended purpose, these attacks, fueled by the unbalanced U.S. policy, make Syria a stage for settling scores among foreign actors. This precarious escalation not only jeopardizes U.S. forces, but also places the safety of Syrian civilians, caught in the crossfire, at great risk.

At this juncture, finding an off-ramp for this escalating conflict is challenging, with the potential for it to evolve into a direct confrontation with Iran. If Israel expands its ground operations in Gaza, and Iranian-backed armed factions intensify their attacks against both Israeli and U.S. forces, the Biden administration will face a critical decision. It will have to choose between taking action, potentially triggering a broad and protracted regional conflict involving Iranian-affiliated groups, or refrain from intervention, diminishing the credibility of its threats.

Equally, President Biden’s policy is steering the United States down a diplomatically precarious path. By blindly doubling down on unconditional support for Israel, Biden’s policy is obstructing American diplomacy from assuming a mediating role in the ongoing conflict, thereby limiting the U.S.’s ability to contribute to deescalating heightened tensions in the region. This became apparent when a scheduled summit on October 18 between Biden and Palestinian, Jordanian, and Egyptian leaders was unexpectedly canceled by his counterparts, leading to his visit to Israel being the sole leg of his recent trip to the region. Similarly, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly encountered a lukewarm reception during his diplomatic endeavors across the region. More significantly, his shuttle diplomacy aimed at diffusing tensions in the Middle East over the Gaza crisis has failed to yield tangible results. Blinken’s visit to Ankara proved to be equally unproductive as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan refused to meet him. 

It not only undermines the United States’ efforts to garner broader support for Ukraine, but also challenges its credibility when advocating for the protection of human rights and the maintenance of a rules-based global order

More broadly, Biden’s one-sided solidarity with Israel risks undermining diplomatic initiatives related to Ukraine. Just a month before the Hamas attack on Israel, the U.S. and other Western allies had called on nations in the Global South to denounce Russia’s actions targeting Ukrainian civilians, emphasizing the importance of upholding international humanitarian law. Failing to apply these principles to the situation in Gaza exposes a glaring hypocrisy and double-standard on the part of the United States. It not only undermines the United States’ efforts to garner broader support for Ukraine, but also challenges its credibility when advocating for the protection of human rights and the maintenance of a rules-based global order.

To mitigate the ramifications of this biased policy, President Biden needs to urgently practice what he preaches. The U.S. should advocate, both publicly and in private discussions, for adherence to international humanitarian law, holding all violators accountable without exceptions. Additionally, the United States should pressure Israel to shift away from its highly aggressive retaliatory stance, positioning itself as a preventative entity against the potential outbreak of a disastrous regional conflict that would be detrimental to all parties, including the United States.

It’s not too late to act sensibly, even now—but soon it will be.

Dr. Haid Haid is a columnist and a Senior Consulting Research Fellow at the Chatham House Middle East and North Africa Program.

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