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    Gaza: Netanyahu defies Biden – politics


    A red heart between the words “Hamas” and “Biden” – this was the message with which an Israeli government member stood out on Platform X on Thursday. Police Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir deduced that Hamas now loves Joe Biden, Israel's most important ally, from a sensational statement by the US President on the television channel CNN. Biden has threatened Israel with a halt to arms deliveries in the event of a large-scale military operation in Rafah. This shows that the fronts in the Middle East are currently becoming confusingly confused. And Israeli-American relations are heading to a new low in the Gaza war.

    Biden's CNN appearance sparked a lot of anger in Israel and also encouraged a lot of defiance. At the same time, Defense Minister Joav Gallant assured “enemies and best friends” that Israel’s army remains steadfastly on a war path. He did not explicitly mention the US President, nor did Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who posted a speech from the beginning of the week without comment. In it he made it clear that Israel would be able to deal with Hamas on its own if necessary.

    Biden's threat to stop weapons is, on the one hand, extremely unusual – and, on the other hand, only consistent. It is unusual because he always praises his friendship with Israel as “iron” and has just pushed through additional military aid worth $14 billion in the US Congress. Now, with regard to Rafah, he declared that Israel should not receive any support there if densely populated areas were attacked. In addition, a shipment of mostly heavy bombs has been held back since last week. “The bombs that the United States delivered to Israel and are now releasing were used to kill civilians,” Biden said.

    His threat is consistent because Biden has been justifying resistance to a Rafah offensive for months with the humanitarian consequences and the danger to the lives of the civilians who have fled there. After almost 35,000 deaths in the Gaza war so far, he sees a “red line” being crossed with an advance in Rafah. So no one in Israel should be really surprised, and it seems too short-sighted to attribute solely domestic political motives to him.

    In the election year, the US President is certainly under enormous pressure from the left wing of his Democrats, which has become even greater due to the campus protests of the young electorate. But Biden sees the way Israel wages war not only as a threat to his own political interests, but also to the strategic interests of the United States in the Middle East. All paths out of the war outlined by Washington have so far been blocked by Netanyahu. He refuses to answer the question of what will become of Gaza after the war. And he is refusing the big deal with which Washington wants to advance the reorganization of the Middle East: a normalization of Israel's relations with Saudi Arabia in return for steps towards the establishment of a Palestinian state.

    Biden's words must be understood as a verbal warning shot

    Currently, Netanyahu also appears to be torpedoing the negotiations over a hostage release and a ceasefire. The ongoing talks in Cairo are overshadowed by his threat that there will be a military operation in Rafah “with or without an agreement.” On Tuesday, Israeli tanks advanced into the southern Gaza Strip and took control of the border crossing into Egypt on the outskirts of the city. However, so far this is only a limited action and not the threatened storm on Hamas' last stronghold.

    Because of this tense but still unclear situation, Biden's words must now be understood primarily as a verbal warning shot – and not as a change in policy or even as a move away from Israel. The hope is still alive in Washington that this message will now be understood in Israel. What really happens when it is not understood remains an open question.

    Israel continued its attacks on Rafah and other parts of the Gaza Strip on Thursday. The army reports that tunnels and other terrorist positions were destroyed in air strikes. According to the UN, 80,000 people have already fled Rafah in the past few days. Well over a million civilians who sought protection there after being expelled from other areas of the devastated Palestinian coastal strip are still caught between the fronts.

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