Rockets fired from Gaza into Israel over the weekend and the retaliatory airstrikes shattered the euphoria over the flimsy normalization of relations with Saudi Arabia, the integration of Israel into the Middle East and, mainly, Israel’s delight that U.S. President Joe Biden didn’t push it into the corner of diplomatic negotiations with the Palestinians.
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Flights over Saudi territory, the presence of Israeli journalists in Jeddah, a joint declaration on preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and other glimmers of peace can’t replace the tangible threat: the clear and present danger that Israel faces from its east and south.
Disappointingly, Biden adopted Israel’s paradigm under which, at present, it's not feasible to advance a diplomatic process that could implement his belief in a two-state solution. From Biden’s perspective, this is a marginal conflict that doesn’t rattle U.S. relations with the Arab world. But Biden and American citizens aren’t the ones threatened by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and they’re not committed to desiring peace more than Israelis and Palestinians do.
The American guest, who promotes human rights as a pillar of his foreign policy, stressed Friday that he wasn't avoiding a confrontation with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. One could have expected him to boldly express the same resolve when meeting with his Israeli hosts.
The Biden administration is well aware of the harsh data that was reported in Haaretz last week: Sixty Palestinians have been killed in the first six months of this year, compared with 70 Palestinians in all of 2021 and 19 in 2020. It's aware that the rules of engagement have been “updated,” allowing live fire against people throwing stones or incendiary devices.
For years the State Department has been following the Israeli army’s sham investigations of live-fire incidents, and it’s aware that this year only 16 such incidents have been investigated, with these probes not ensuring resounding results. The U.S. Embassy receives regular reports on the nighttime operations of the Israeli army, which breaks into the homes of innocent civilians, frightening women and children while arresting people without cause, as the soldiers shoot their guns in the street only as a way to intimidate.
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Minding the risk of getting involved in Israeli domestic politics or undermining the "infeasibility” paradigm, Biden should have sent a powerful message condemning the killing of innocents. He should have demanded quick and effective investigations into lethal incidents while presenting himself as a leader committed not only to Israel’s security but also to the right to life of innocent Palestinians. This message cannot wait any longer.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.