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Biden’s ability to prevent Israel from proceeding with third round of ethnic cleansing remains uncertain

Nov 16,2023 - Last updated at Nov 16,2023

Israel is fortunate that in this time of crisis the US president is Joe Biden. Of Irish-Catholic background, as a child Biden learned of Hitler’s persecution and mass murder of Jews during World War II. Biden became a self-confessed “gentile”, or non-Jewish, Zionist, and has repeatedly proclaimed his attachment to Israel. During his decades-long career in politics as a senator from the tiny state of Delaware, Biden visited Israel repeatedly and cultivated a close relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu, the country’s longest serving prime minister.

Biden did not shed his Israel connection during his eight years as vice president in the Obama administration and during his 34 months as president. Instead of ordering Israel to stop its assault on Gaza’s hapless civilians and proposing sanctions if it continues, Biden dispatches arms to fuel the one-sided assault and deploys war ships to prevent intervention by regional actors. 

Since the October 7 Hamas surprise raid from Gaza into Israel which killed 1,200 (a number reduced from 1,400 originally claimed by Israel), Biden has been totally behind Israel’s full-scale war on Gaza which has slain more than 11,000 Palestinians, 4,500 of whom were children.

Biden has repeated the false mantra “Israel has the right to defend itself” and has rejected calls for a ceasefire despite growing Arab, Muslim and international pressure for an end to Israel’s blitz. Since Palestinians fear that Israel will try to drive the 2.3 million Gazans out of the narrow coastal strip into Egypt and the 3 million West Bankers and East Jerusalem Palestinians into Jordan, Biden agreed with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi and His Majesty King Abdullah to reject this possibility. However, it is not clear how Biden could stop Israel if Netanyahu goes ahead with ethnic cleansing in a third round of the Nakba or Palestinian Catastrophe which began in 1948.

Contrary to claims by Israel and its friends, expulsion of Palestinians did not begin with the intervention by Arab armies during Israel’s war of establishment. Israel’s clearing of Palestinian cities, towns and villages began in early April following an injection of weapons from Czechoslovakia and resulted in the uprooting of more than 200,000 of the 1.2 million Palestinians who formed two-thirds of the population of the country. 

The expulsions compelled the Arab armies to act after Israel declared statehood on May 14 of that year. When the war ended, Israel had driven 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and conquered 78 per cent of Palestine. This was the first round of the Nakba.

The second stage came in 1967 when Israel conquered the remaining 22 per cent of Palestine comprising East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza when another 250,000 were driven from the country, most into Jordan.

In both 1948 and 1967, Palestinians were not allowed by Israel to return to their country and their homes in nearly 500 villages and towns were bulldozed so there was nothing to return to. During its ongoing assault on Gaza, Israel has obliterated tens of thousands of Palestinian homes plus civilian infrastructure, hospitals, clinics, schools, manufacturing plant and commercial properties and churned up agricultural land. This time, Israel is eradicating the physical structures of Palestinian communal life ahead of intended ethnic cleansing. Again, Palestinians will have nothing to return to once the hostilities end. That is if and when they end and Israel is compelled to withdraw its army from Gaza.

What comes next? Netanyahu says Israel intends to manage security without defining what this means. Israel has been in charge of security since it occupied Gaza in 1967. Since then, there has been one war after another, making Gaza the most insecure territory on the face of the earth. He has refused an international force and the return of the Palestinian Authority (PA) which was driven from Gaza by Hamas in 2007. The PA says it will return only if Gaza and the West Bank are reunited in a Palestine state. Netanyahu rejects a Palestinian state. Israel’s Gaza offensive continues.

The rapidly deteriorating Gaza situation is creating alarm around the world where pro-Palestinian protesters are calling for an immediate and enduring ceasefire. Biden’s refusal to demand that Israel observe a ceasefire has prompted European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Josip Borrell to call for Europe to adopt an independent approach to the war and what comes after.

He told the EU Council’s foreign affairs committee that this war has cost too many lives and shows that “there has to be a two-state future” for Palestine. “It’s not just about reconstructing Gaza. We’ve done that several times before. We have to construct a state for the Palestinians.”

He said the bloc has been “far too absent” and left the US to develop a plan which never materialised. Borrell put forward principles on which to launch an effort to develop a “day after” solution. He said there can be no displacement or expulsion of Palestinians from Gaza, no permanent reoccupation by the Israeli forces, and no Hamas return to power in Gaza. While these principles could be useful, Borrell’s words are certain to fall on deaf ears in Israel and the White House.

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