Biden must take effective steps to restore peace in the Middle East

President Joe Biden’s recent initiative to broker peace between Israel and Hamas by proposing a US plan reflects his commitment to resolving the long-standing conflict. However, the immediate dismissal of the proposal by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, despite initial approval from Hamas, underscores the credibility issues plaguing US policy in the Middle East. To overcome these challenges and establish a lasting peace, Biden needs to adopt a multifaceted approach that emphasizes consistency, accountability, and genuine engagement.

The crux of Biden’s credibility problem lies in the perception that American officials lack steadfastness and fail to enforce their own proposals. The recent history of US-backed offers, accepted by Hamas and later rejected by Israel without any repercussions, fuels skepticism. This inconsistency was starkly evident when Israel’s assault on Rafah violated the Israel-Egypt peace treaty shortly after Hamas had accepted a US-endorsed proposal. For Biden to succeed, he must demonstrate that American diplomatic efforts are backed by tangible consequences.

A significant part of the challenge involves the complex dynamics within Israeli politics. Netanyahu’s government relies heavily on hard-line religious Zionists, such as Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, who vehemently oppose any concessions to Hamas. Biden’s announcement was strategically timed to avoid immediate backlash from these figures, given their observance of the Sabbath, which prevents them from responding until after sunset on Saturday. This timing coincided with peak protest activities by families of hostages and anti-war demonstrators, amplifying public pressure on Netanyahu. However, the influence of far-right politicians remains a significant barrier.

To enhance his credibility, Biden must transition from rhetoric to actionable measures. One potential avenue is to translate his public offer into a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution, with the US’s backing. The UNSC, reflecting global calls for a ceasefire, serves as an appropriate platform to enforce international mandates. Employing Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which authorizes economic and military measures against violators of international law, could add weight to this approach. Such a move would signal that the US is serious about holding parties accountable for obstructing peace efforts.

Furthermore, Biden could demonstrate a commitment to the two-state solution by officially recognizing the state of Palestine. The US recognized Israel in 1948 despite its lack of statehood qualifications at the time, yet it continues to block Palestine’s full UN membership, even though it meets the criteria. By recognizing Palestine, Biden would not only correct a historical inconsistency but also reinforce the US’s dedication to a viable two-state solution. This recognition should be coupled with active diplomatic efforts to support Palestine’s bid for full UN membership, showcasing a balanced approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Delivering on electoral promises is another crucial step. Biden pledged to reopen the Palestinian mission in Washington and the US consulate in Jerusalem, which previously served the Palestinian people before being shut down by former President Donald Trump. Following through on these commitments would restore US credibility and signal a genuine commitment to Palestinian rights and representation. It would also counter perceptions that US policy is excessively biased towards Israel, thereby fostering a more balanced diplomatic posture.

US law provides additional leverage to enforce humanitarian standards. Legislation stipulates that countries obstructing humanitarian aid delivery cannot receive US taxpayer support. Israel, a major recipient of US aid, has hindered humanitarian aid to Gaza. Biden must enforce this law, particularly regarding the use of American weapons by Israel in alleged war crimes. Ensuring compliance with these legal standards would demonstrate the US’s commitment to upholding international and domestic laws, reinforcing its credibility as a mediator.

Engaging with Hamas, despite its designation as a terrorist organization by the US, requires political courage and a willingness to challenge entrenched narratives. Biden’s administration must adopt a pragmatic approach, recognizing that sustainable peace necessitates dialogue with all parties involved. This means not only pressuring Israel to engage constructively but also encouraging Hamas to participate in good faith negotiations. The US can facilitate this by working with regional actors like Egypt and Qatar, who have established channels of communication with Hamas, to foster a conducive environment for talks.

A comprehensive strategy should also involve leveraging economic and development incentives to encourage cooperation. The US can collaborate with international partners to develop economic packages that support Palestinian infrastructure and economic development, contingent on progress in peace negotiations. Such incentives would provide tangible benefits for both Israelis and Palestinians, creating a vested interest in maintaining peace.

President Biden’s path to overcoming the Middle East credibility problem involves a combination of strategic diplomacy, legal enforcement, and genuine engagement. By transforming public proposals into enforceable international mandates, recognizing Palestine, fulfilling electoral promises, and leveraging humanitarian and economic incentives, Biden can rebuild trust and demonstrate the US’s commitment to a just and lasting peace. These steps are essential not only for the credibility of US policy but also for the stability and prosperity of the entire region. The road ahead is fraught with challenges, but with consistent and decisive actions, Biden can pave the way for a more enduring resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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