The new issue between Israel and the terrorist Palestinian group Hamas has failed to divert Biden’s attention from what he sees as his primary goal: ending the epidemic and reviving the economy.
Biden declined Monday to publicly condemn Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Gaza raids in reprisal for Hamas’ rocket attacks, a move consistent with a record of strong support for Israel that is longer than that of many previous presidents.
Domestic and international heat for Biden is escalating, however, amid rising Palestinian civilian casualties — including the deaths of children in Gaza — and the Israeli destruction of a building in the enclave used by the Associated Press and other media groups.
Other presidents may have felt compelled to come on TV to appeal for calm or, at the very least, to give public regrets for civilian losses. By now, some governments would have begun a Middle East peace shuttle. But in a territory where the “peace process” has long since ended — an area where Biden had wanted to avoid issues if at all possible — there’s no easy payoff for spending limited US political or diplomatic capital.
“We’ve made clear that we are prepared to lend our support and good offices to the parties should they seek a ceasefire,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Denmark, in remarks emblematic of a low wattage US diplomatic push and reluctance to urge Israel to stop before it is ready.
Biden’s only public event on Monday focused on the pandemic response and expanding vaccine deliveries abroad. The White House stagecraft sent a clear and obvious message about the Middle East.
“I think the President frankly wants this thing to go away,” said former Middle East peace negotiator and CNN Global Affairs analyst Aaron David Miller. m”He is shackled with the greatest challenge of national recovery since Franklin Roosevelt. He is picking his foreign policy spots carefully.”