With the visit to the Israeli war zone, Biden’s personal diplomacy is put to the test: analysis
President Joe Biden headed to Israel on Tuesday evening in a dramatic show of support for a key US ally, while sending a strong message to Iran and Hezbollah not to interfere in the deepening crisis.
But by making a personally dangerous visit to an active war zone, he is also taking a high-stakes political gamble.
He must come out of this trip with more than just support for Israel’s right to defend itself. He has to prove that his visit made a difference. He risks leaving empty-handed.
He must walk a fine line between seeking to reaffirm steadfast American support for Israel, while at the same time urging restraint in its expected incursion into Gaza and insisting that Israel allow humanitarian aid into the Strip.
The White House said it would focus on “the urgent need for humanitarian access to Gaza, as well as the ability of innocent people to exit.”
But what Biden can achieve through personal diplomacy is quickly becoming questionable.
A few hours before he was scheduled to leave, the Gaza Ministry of Health reported that at least 500 people were killed in an explosion in a hospital used as a shelter for residents who had fled their homes. Health authorities in Gaza said that the explosion was caused by an Israeli air strike. The IDF denied responsibility. The White House did not comment.
Following the explosion, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas canceled a scheduled meeting with Biden in Jordan, and shortly thereafter, the entire Jordanian portion of his visit was cancelled.
A White House official said that Biden also postponed a meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, describing it as a “mutual decision.”
While heading to Israel at night on Air Force One, he issued a statement in which he said: “I feel angry and deeply saddened by the explosion that occurred in the National Arab Hospital in Gaza, and the huge loss of life that resulted from it.” Immediately upon hearing this explosion, he added: “I spoke with the King.” Jordanian King Abdullah II and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, and I have directed my national security team to continue gathering information about exactly what happened.” “The United States unequivocally supports protecting civilian lives during conflict, and we grieve for patients, medical workers, and other innocent people.” “Those who were killed or injured in this tragedy.”
So far, diplomatic efforts by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who met with leaders in the region before Biden’s trip, have had little success.
Despite negotiations with Egyptian and Israeli counterparts, the Rafah border crossing remained closed until Tuesday evening. No aid was allowed into Gaza, and no Americans or other foreign nationals — let alone Palestinians — were allowed out. An estimated two million civilians in Gaza are trapped and suffering, with fuel, water and electricity running out.
While Biden has issued repeated strong warnings in recent days about protecting innocent civilians, the image of him standing shoulder to shoulder with Netanyahu could link him more closely to the bloodshed in Gaza. And his attempts to negotiate more humanitarian aid for the Palestinians could be sunk by devastating attacks on civilians.
This challenge is confirmed by King Abdullah’s statements in a press conference on Tuesday, describing the flow of refugees to Jordan or Egypt as a “red line.”
He added: “I think this is a plan by some of the usual suspects to try to create fait accompli issues on the ground.” “There are no refugees in Jordan, and no refugees in Egypt.”
The rapidly deteriorating situation in Gaza and the continuing bombardment that is killing civilians may turn global public opinion against Israel and Biden’s support for the US ally.
This negative opinion could be exacerbated if the ground war begins while Biden is on the ground or if it begins shortly after his departure.
As if to highlight the potential limits of what Biden could achieve, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the United States had not obtained any assurances from Israel about delaying its ground invasion of the visit, saying: “We are not dictating conditions or Operational operations. Directions to the Israelis.
This article originally appeared on abcnews.go.com