Thursday , December 7 2023

Biden facing internal dissent over Israel’s Gaza campaign


WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden is under growing pressure to rein in Israel’s military campaign against Hamas in Gaza.

The growing civilian casualties and desperate humanitarian conditions have alarmed Arab allies, but also stirred an extraordinary level of criticism from within his own administration.

“I’m stunned by the intensity,” said Aaron David Miller, who worked as an adviser on Arab-Israeli relations during a 25 year tenure at the US State Department.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like this.”

Several internal memos have been sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken through a channel, established after the Vietnam War, which allows employees to register disapproval of policy.

An open letter is also said to be circulating at the Agency for International Development (USAID). Another has been dispatched to the White House by political appointees and staff members representing dozens of government agencies. Another to members of Congress by staffers on Capitol Hill.

Much of this dissent is private, and the signatures are often anonymous out of concerns the protest might affect jobs, so the full scale of it is not clear. But according to leaks cited by multiple reports, hundreds of people have signed on to the wave of opposition.

An administration official has told media that these concerns are very real and there are active discussions about them.

At a minimum, the letters are asking that President Biden demand an immediate ceasefire, and push Israel much harder to allow for more humanitarian aid to enter Gaza.

In some cases, the language is stronger, echoing the rhetoric of young political activists and apparently reflecting to some degree a generational divide that is more critical of Israel and sympathetic to Palestinians.

The letters condemn the atrocities carried out by Hamas during its surprise 7 October attack that killed around 1,200 people, mostly Israeli civilians.

More than 12,000 have been killed in Gaza by Israel since that attack, according to the latest figure from the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry. Israel has said it is trying to minimize civilian casualties in the war in Gaza but has not been successful, blaming this on Hamas.

The situation in Gaza is a “font of the dismay” in the administration, according to Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, a former US diplomat who is now president of the Middle East Policy Council.

The administration’s support for the Israeli military operation appears for many “far too much of a one-sided position for the US government”, she said.

Abercrombie-Winstanley signed dissent cables during her career and has been consulted by current employees about whether they should do so now. These memos feel like they have a “broader reach” than others, she said, drawing in people who are not necessarily working on the specific issue at hand.

Abercrombie-Winstanley believes the chorus of dismay has contributed to significant shifts in US language as well as the emphasis of its messaging, since the days immediately after the Hamas attack when President Biden pledged unwavering support for Israel in an emotional address. (Int’l News Desk)

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