The Biden administration was not in support of a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict just this week. Earlier in the week, Secretary of State Tony Blinken said he did not expect a meeting to take place until later after diplomatic efforts had run their course. By Thursday Blinken acknowledged that he expected a Security Council meeting to take place next week.
The timeline has ‘evolved’ now that the conflict has escalated so quickly. There is no indication that the barrage of Palestinian rocket attacks into Israel will end soon. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu isn’t relying on diplomatic exercises, he’s set about to protect his country.
“I think we’re looking at early next week,” he told reporters at the State Department. “This, I hope, will give some time for the diplomacy to have some effect and to see if, indeed, we get a real de-escalation and can then pursue this at the United Nations in that context.”
That timeline progressed more quickly than he forecast, a shift that coincided with an Israel Defense Forces announcement that “air and ground troops are currently attacking in the Gaza Strip.” Subsequent reports suggest that the ground personnel are striking from within Israeli territory without yet crossing into Gaza.
“It will take time, but with great decisiveness, both defensively and offensively, we will achieve our goal — to restore quiet to the state of Israel,” Netanyahu said earlier Thursday.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, announced on Twitter last night that a meeting will take place on Sunday.
The UN Security Council will meet to discuss the situation in Israel and Gaza on Sunday. The U.S. will continue to actively engage in diplomacy at the highest levels to try to de-escalate tensions.
— Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield (@USAmbUN) May 13, 2021
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is decades old and every American presidential administration struggles to play whatever part possible in peace negotiations. This time it is different, though, just from the sheer magnitude of rockets falling in Israel. What is not surprising is the rise of the anti-semitic left who expect the Palestinians to be able to act with impunity. If this latest conflict escalates into a full-blown war, the Biden administration has to be prepared to act decisively in support of Israel.
Israel is experiencing its worst communal violence in years. In Jerusalem, Palestinians and Israeli police clashed in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, at the Al Aqsa Mosque and elsewhere in the Old City. Tensions rose sharply over a looming Israeli Supreme Court decision on whether to uphold the eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in the strategically situated Sheikh Jarrah.
Hundreds of Palestinians have been injured in the clashes, with police using flash grenades, tear gas and sponge-tipped bullets, which they said were necessary to respond to people throwing stones at security forces. More than 20 Israeli police have been injured.
The compound where the mosque is located, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and as the Temple Mount to Jews, has become a focal point of Palestinian anger over what they see as years of efforts to push them out of Jerusalem and limit their access to land they claim, as well as infringing on their basic rights.
Right-wing Israeli efforts to assert control in East Jerusalem, which Israel claims as part of its undivided capital, have inflamed the situation. Monday was especially tense as young right-wing Israelis participated in marches associated with Jerusalem Day, meant to commemorate Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in 1967.
Since then, sectarian clashes have spread, with Jewish and Arab Israelis turning on each other and destroying property in various cities. Israel’s military, has massed some 3,000 to 4,000 troops along the border with Gaza along with tanks and artillery as it intensifies its offensive against Gaza-based militant group Hamas.
The usual suspects weighed in as Biden voiced support for Israel’s right to defend itself. The Squad, in particular, have been outspoken against Israel. One interesting twist happened last night as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez compared the conflict to that of the crisis on America’s southern border on the floor of the House.
Ocasio-Cortez said that Americans ‘are scared to stand up to the incarceration of children in Palestine because maybe it’ll force us to confront the incarceration of children here on our border,’ according to the outlet.
Other members of The Squad spoke in hyperbolic language on the floor of the House, too. The push is on to pressure the Biden administration into punishing Israel for acting as a sovereign country is expected to act – to protect itself and its citizens.
“As a black woman in America, I am no stranger to police brutality and state-sanctioned violence,” said Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). “We have been criminalized for the very way we show up in the world … Palestinians are being told the same thing as black folks in America: there is no acceptable form of resistance.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) condemned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “a far-right ethno-nationalist” on the House floor and asked: “How can we pay lip service to a Palestinian state, yet do absolutely nothing to make that state a reality while the Israeli government we fund tries to make it impossible?”
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress, told her colleagues that “Palestinians aren’t going anywhere, no matter how much more money you send to Israel’s apartheid government” before rounding on the Biden administration over its response to the conflict.
“To read the statements from President Biden, Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken, [Secretary of Defense] General [Lloyd] Austin, and leaders of both parties, you’d hardly know Palestinians existed at all,” said Tlaib, who became visibly emotional at several points in her remarks.
Biden, to his credit, has so far supported Netanyahu and the Israeli government. We know during the Obama administration, that support was not there. The Trump administration had real success in the Middle East and forged historic agreements with Israel’s neighbors, now known as the Abraham Accords. Joe Biden has been in office a little more than 100 days and the region is on fire. Biden is being tested early, likely because the world knows he is a weak, status-quo politician. We’ll see what happens from here.