The truth behind the "rift" between the US and Israel over Gaza
Washington has openly voiced its discontent with the extremist Israeli government, citing its failure to take sufficient measures to protect civilians in the Gaza Strip. The intensifying bombardment of civilians and soaring civilian casualties – mostly women and children – and brutal scenes of Gazan civilians being arrested, stripped, humiliated, and summarily executed has started to embarrass the U.S. in its unbudging, self-appointed role as Israel's protector, both domestically and externally.
The U.S., which rushed to provide Israel with vast quantities of cutting edge lethal weaponry, had hoped this would ensure that the war would end swiftly without an impact on its grand strategy. However, the scale of devastation unleashed on the Gazan people by Israel's war of extermination has been exposed and broadcast far and wide, provoking unease, even rebellion, even in official American institutions.
The fact that Israel's actions have been exposed and laid bare, as well as Israel's shameless bragging about its crimes; and the Israeli army's explicit and unhidden desire for revenge and to spread terror among Palestinians to force them to migrate – all of this harms US objectives in both the short and long-term.
In other words, while Washington's frustration with Israel appears genuine, its true concern is not to safeguard Palestinian lives, but to contain the irreversible damage on Israel and the United States' reputation.
This is already jeopardizing America's strategic objectives in the region, from maintaining Israel's military superiority against its foes to the so-called Abraham Accords for normalisation between Arab states and Israel, the crown jewel of which would be a Saudi-Israeli treaty.
Israel's shattered prestige
Arguably, the U.S. and Israel fully agree on the war's objectives - uprooting Hamas and turning the Gaza Strip into a collection of prison camps under Israeli military control.
That is, if the Sinai transfer plan fails – a plan which Israel and the United States have attempted to give a veneer of legitimacy to by trying to convince Arab states to participate in managing its "transitional phase". This phase would give time for the Palestinian Authority (PA) to be restructured and made ready to accept a new set of conditions to assume then its new role as prison warden in the Strip in the 'day after'.
The U.S. wishes to see Hamas crushed, not only because the movement poses a danger to Israel, but to restore the prestige of the Israeli army - because the Pentagon has spent billions of dollars propping it up. Ensuring this army is the strongest in the region has long been a pillar of US strategy, as it serves to safeguard US hegemony.
However, the Israeli army's loss of one battle after another, and the resilience of the Palestinian resistance, have shaken Israel's 'edge' and deterrence.
On the international arena, Washington stands isolated in the UN General Assembly and the Security Council. Despite opposition from the U.S., most UN General Assembly members, including American allies, supported a ceasefire resolution. Earlier, the U.S. had vetoed a similar resolution at the Security Council. Consequently, the United States has suffered reputational setbacks in the Arab region and globally, losing ground to rivals China and Russia.
The significant shift in global public opinion, meanwhile, particularly within the U.S., in favour of the Palestinians is also causing concern for the White House. This shift disrupts Washington's efforts to rally the West against Hamas and shield Israel from further delegitimization and scrutiny.
Washington's paramount concern ultimately lies in the derailment of the Arab-Israeli normalization process and the potential hindrance to an Israeli-Saudi normalization treaty
U.S. Strategy in the Middle East in Tatters
The United States has no real problem with the Israeli army’s savagery. However, plunging into battle with international - and United States - public opinion is weakening its ability to sustain support and justification for Israel comfortably. More specifically - the successive massacres Israel is carrying out are making it difficult to convince Saudi Arabia to pledge that it will proceed with the normalisation talks.
Indeed, Washington's paramount concern lies in the derailment of the Arab-Israeli normalization process and the potential hindrance to an Israeli-Saudi normalization treaty. Such a treaty is crucial for any effort to liquidate the Palestinian question.
In this regard, all Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has achieved by his flurry of visits to Riyadh is that Saudi Arabia will keep the door "ajar" for future discussion with the US on the topic. This in itself is a major blow to US strategy in the region.
Washington on the eve of the 7 October attack had already started celebrating the success of its normalisation project, and the fast-approaching day that "the Palestinian cause" would be wiped from the lexicon of Arab (and international) discourse - especially when Saudi officials announced that normalisation was just a matter of time.
From the U.S. viewpoint, achieving a Saudi-Israeli deal will end "the conflict" once and for all. This is because normalisation, in the eyes of the U.S. is a process by which the Arab states finally bend in complete subjugation to Israel, sealing its domination of the region.
This would therefore end all demands for the legitimate rights for the Palestinian people and pave the way for Israel's full integration into the region – with no further challenges to its racist settlement project. Israel will be able to do as its likes with the Palestinian people.
The Americans were banking on the fact that any Israeli-Saudi deal would provide moral legitimacy to Israel, because of Saudi Arabia's status and custodianship of the Two Holy Mosques. It would send a message to the Islamic world that there was no religious justification for hostility towards Israel.
Furthermore, Saudi funding to poorer Arab states would become conditioned on them participating in normalisation, as the UAE has already begun doing, becoming a financial sponsor of Arab economic normalisation agreements with Israel.
Normalisation pipe dream
Washington had started to feel it would not be able to secure a Saudi-Israel deal during this Biden term. But now, the U.S. is almost certain this won't happen, which is why we are seeing Biden's anger, besides the growing awareness that Israel's genocidal war against Gaza could delay or even dispel hopes of a comprehensive normalisation agreement for many years to come - as well as disrupting agreements with other Arab states.
On this front, Jordan has announced it no longer intends to sign the desalinated water for solar energy from Wadi Araba exchange deal - an agreement funded by the UAE. Meanwhile, figures who met with King Abdullah II recently say Amman is embarking on a radical review of its relationship with Israel, as Israel's policies and actions are now overtly threatening Jordan's security.
Jordan has come to fear that the ethnic cleansing of the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem is now a realistic prospect, in which case the Palestinians there would be expelled into Jordan.
In short, the U.S.-Israel rift is real, even if it is limited to tactics rather than goals. This has begun to embarrass the U.S. administration internationally, threatening America's leadership of the Western world and domestically, as protests escalate against America's blind support for and defence of Israel, all while the US is heading into presidential elections.
Washington and Tel Aviv's clash over tactics, as well as the increasing isolation of the United States at the UN, leaves no excuse to the Arab states not to push hard for a ceasefire. Waiting for Hamas to be eliminated, as some Arab states desire, is being partner to the crimes we are witnessing, and in fact has given Israel the chance to kill tens of thousands of Palestinians.
But the tactical differences between the United States and Israel also present an opportunity to magnify collective action and build up the boycott and anti-normalisation movements, which Washington fears and Israel sees as the biggest threat to its existence.
Lamis Andoni is a Palestinian journalist, writer and academic who launched The New Arab as its editor-in-chief.
This is an edited and abridged translation from our Arabic edition. To read the original article click here.
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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff, or the author's employer.