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For Netanyahu, ‘human shields’ must endure suffering as Israel persistently pursues Hamas

Dec 07,2023 - Last updated at Dec 07,2023

The Biden administration has waited too long to rein in Israel over its deadly and devastating war on Gaza. After Hamas’s sudden attack on southern Israel on October 7, President Joe Biden promptly declared that Israel has the right to defend itself without defining limits. Since then, Biden has not personally criticised Israel for killing civilians or called for a ceasefire as Palestinian fatalities have mounted to more than 16,000.

Biden unleashed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and allowed him to order massive bloodletting and destruction in the besieged and blockaded Gaza strip. 

Biden continued to bleat, "Israel has the right to self-defence", while Israel's war machine killed and wounded thousands of Gazans, destroyed of half of Gaza's homes, dozens of public buildings and schools and damaged the sole power plant and its solar panels, and water and sewage pumping stations.

As the world's satellite television channels broadcast images of Israel's massacre and mayhem in Gaza, the Biden administration (but not Biden himself) plucked nervously at the imaginary leash connecting the US to Israel and asked its rulers politely to avoid civilian deaths and abide by humanitarian law.

Netanyahu dismissed such requests and said Israel is doing what is needed to be done to eliminate Hamas, which Israel always claims is using civilians as “human shields”. As far as he is concerned “human shields” must suffer while Israel relentlessly pursues Hamas. 

The Biden administration did not jerk the leash or threaten negative consequences. Instead, Biden supplied Israel with bunker buster bombs which destroy whole neighbourhoods as well as the tunnels Hamas has built as bomb shelters and, according to Israel, as means to travel around the strip deep underground. Biden has also promised Israel $14 billion which could be used to prosecute the war for months rather than week while expanding the scope of the conflict to the restive West Bank and, perhaps, southern Lebanon where Hizbollah has exchanged fire with Israeli forces across the border.

After weeks of prevarication and procrastination, Biden attempted to reattach a leash to Israel's notional collar but his feeble effort was resisted. Therefore, he dispatched Vice President Kamala Harris to Dubai to attend the COP28 global warming conference. While there she stated the administration's policy: "As Israel defends itself, it matters how. The United States is unequivocal: International humanitarian law must be respected. Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed," Harris stated. 

Harris said the US will not permit the forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank, the besieging of Gaza, or the redrawing of Gaza's borders. The Palestinian Authority must be strengthened so it could govern both the West Bank and Gaza and Hamas cannot continue ruling Gaza. But Harris is not Biden, the ultimate decider of policy.

Netanyahu, naturally, ignored all five of Harris' five points and did not bother with her reiteration of US support of the two-state solution involving the emergence of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Netanyahu has flatly rejected the two-state solution. He prefers engineering the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by making it impossible for them to live in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This is, of course, the "one-state solution" envisioned by the father of Israel, Theodor Herzl who more than a century ago called for Palestinians to be pushed “surreptitiously" into territory not claimed and conquered by Israel. When this happened in 1948 and 1967, cleansing of Palestinians was carried out in full view of the international community which did nothing to halt or reduce mass deportations.

The other "one-state solution" is of a state inhabited by Jewish Israelis and Palestinians. Proposals for a binational democratic state in Palestine have been mooted by liberal Zionists since the 1930s and since 1969-1970 by the Palestinian resistance factions, including the Popular Front, the Democratic Front and Fateh. While Palestinians who favour this model envision a democratic state where every citizen would be equal, a majority of Israelis could resist this solution. They want a Jewish majority state although Palestinians now constitute a slender majority in geographic Palestine. If they are compelled to accept a binational, “one state solution”, they would expect to be the top community and supreme rulers of any entity and could insist on maintaining "apartheid", the separation of two unequal communities. They have practiced "apartheid" since the founding of Israel in 1948 and are unlikely change their minds about this.

Despite uncomfortable realities, Biden and his administration continue to cling to the "two-state solution", despite Netanyahu's rejection, and do not give any specifics on how this can be achieved. Israel has done everything in its power to prevent realisation of this option. Israeli colonies and military areas have taken over West Bank territory Palestinians need for their state, Israel has occupied East Jerusalem which Palestinians want for their capital, and Israel has devastated Gaza in order to eliminate Palestinian resistance to full Israeli military control.

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