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Nov 22, 2023, 3:08pm EST
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Semafor Signals

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Will Biden’s support for Israel cost US its global standing?

REUTERS/Amir Cohen
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In the face of a worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the U.S.’s unwavering moral support for Israel’s military response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack is angering the international community — including close allies.

The Biden administration has refused to heed growing calls for a total ceasefire amid tens of thousands of Palestinian casualties and devastating conditions in the besieged enclave. This has prompted accusations of double standards, threatening the U.S.‘s grip on power in the Global South and the Middle East.

“We look forward to a stronger role on the part of great powers such as China in order to stop the attacks against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip,” Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry told his Chinese counterpart during a visit to Beijing, where a delegation of Arab and Muslim leaders pushed for an end to hostilities in Gaza after failed negotiations with the West.

“Unfortunately, there are major countries that give cover to the current Israeli attacks,” he added.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

“The Biden administration has done things no other administration has by giving gifts to a Netanyahu government that has been more far right than ever,” Yousef Munayyer, head of the Arab Center’s Palestine/Israel Program, told Semafor. Unlike former U.S. President Barack Obama, Biden has especially tempered his tone with Israel and taken a less critical stance on the Israel-Palestine issue. The U.S’s historically close-knit relationship with the Jewish state also puts it in a “very difficult position” on the world stage, Munayyer said, as there are inevitable constraints to what the U.S. can publicly say and do. This has led Arab leaders to engage with countries like China instead, who they view as a “refreshing alternative” to the West. “The Chinese are not beholden to the pro-Israel orthodoxy,” Munayyer said.

The Arab world’s perception of “American complicity in the carnage in Gaza” will weaken the U.S. in its competition with China which, unlike the U.S., has championed the Palestinian cause despite its own record of human rights violations, Tuqa Nusairat, a Middle East expert from the Atlantic Council, writes for the L.A. Times. Those in the Arab world and Global South have pointed out the double standards in past American statements about “respect for human rights” and international laws of war, when it comes to the U.S. response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “Every U.S.-made missile dropped on Gaza’s besieged population along with America’s tepid response to the war will damage U.S. standing in the region and around the world for years to come,” Nusairat writes.

The U.S. is also losing credibility with developing nations who view its inaction towards Israel’s campaign in Gaza as hypocritical — particularly in comparison to its stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Biden administration’s decision to veto a United Nations resolution for a “humanitarian pause” in Gaza this October sparked outrage, with one African diplomat telling Reuters that “the veto told us that Ukrainian lives are more valuable than Palestinian ones.” Even the European Union’s inconsistency over its support for Ukrainians, but not for Palestinians, is “geopolitical kryptonite,” the Financial Times’ Brussels bureau chief wrote.

Domestically too, Biden’s position is being challenged by progressive Democrats. In a recent poll, the U.S. president’s national approval rating dropped to an all-time low of 40% with a majority of voters disapproving of his handling of the Israel-Hamas war. Sen. Bernie Sanders recently proposed that Congress require U.S. military aid to Israel to be “conditional,” while a group of Democratic senators wrote to Biden calling for increased protection of civilians in Gaza. “We are concerned that increased and prolonged suffering in Gaza is not only intolerable for Palestinian civilians there but will also negatively impact the security of Israeli civilians by exacerbating existing tensions and eroding regional alliances,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter.

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