Biden: Flim-Flam Man – OpEd


Last week, Pres. Biden announced an “Israeli peace plan” for Gaza, which Israel’s prime Minister all but disavowed within 24 hours of its debut. He reiterated his intent to battle to the last Hamas fighter, though it appears unlikely the IDF can accomplish this objective. Netanyahu’s maximalist position appears to remain unchanged.

The Opposition notified him that it would support a ceasefire plan in the Knesset, giving the PM political cover if he chose to accept it.  But it would mean the dissolution of his government and lead to new elections. Polls show that he would lose the election, following which the corruption trials against him would move into a new phase. A conviction could lead to prison time.  The war is Bibi’s stay-out-of-jail card.  As long as there is war the nation will support him. Though even that is changing with a burgeoning anti-war movement led by families of hostages held in Gaza.

Biden’s plan calls for release of all Israeli hostages, followed by the release of Palestinian hostages (detainees arrested by Israel) and withdrawal of Israeli troops from “populated areas” in Gaza. It would be accompanied by a 45-day ceasefire at the end of which hostilities would conclude and the IDF would completely withdraw from the enclave.  Afterward, the US, European and Arab states would launch a massive reconstruction effort in Gaza.

It’s unclear who or what would govern Gaza after the war.  Israel refuses to permit Hamas to return, and for the Palestinian Authority to take control. If it did, this would strengthen the case for a Palestinian state, which Israel vehemently opposes.

Israel identified a powerful clan in Gaza as an alternative force capable to governing, but Hamas assassinated the its leader for negotiating with the Israelis.  It will not permit a rival to rule.

The US wants the PA to take over, but Israel’s refusal has torpedoed that option.  The US also wants the war to lead to creation of a Palestinian state. This plan too is dead in the water due to Israeli opposition.  Though it’s important to note that European nations have newly recognized such a state  as a consequence of Israeli genocide. As have well over 100 UN member states have done so as well.

Biden’s plan is close to Hamas’s proposals, but far from Israeli demands. It’s not clear how or why this is an Israeli proposal. Netanyahu said as much, claiming that Israeli goals remain the same: eradication of Hamas and Israeli security control of the enclave.

There are several scenarios that may be at play here. Biden may hope that Netanyahu actually wants such an agreement, but needs to cover his right flank; since Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir could topple his government. That would explain Bibi’s reaffirmation of his maximalist goals to assuage their own expectations.

Biden would clearly prefer a government consisting of Likud and the current center- right Opposition. The US wants the current far-right government to fall, as it would never accept any agreement with Hamas.  Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, leaders of the Opposition, have already signaled their support for the US-Israeli plan.

However, Netanyahu could have cobbled together such a unity government after winning the last election. Instead he chose the Judeo- fascist parties as his bedfellows.  It seems dubious he would choose a path he’d once rejected.

Curiously, Netanyahu did not explicitly renounce the US Proposal. He could have rejected it out of hand and denied it was an Israeli plan at all. Since that didn’t happen, there had to have been some coordination with the US.

Hamas, for the first time since 10/7, reacted favorably to a ceasefire proposal. But that’s not surprising, since this plan is close to its past ones, which Israel rejected.

For Biden, this is a must-win situation. He’s being pummeled in the polls, on campuses, and in the media for his refusal to take concrete action to bring the war to a close. Despite Trump’s guilty verdict in his hush money case, he still leads Biden by 2% in the latest polls. A successful agreement would, so the president hopes, wipe away this stain on his campaign.  Even if the gambit fails, he can go to the electorate and say that he put forward a peace plan which the parties rejected.

Further, Biden’s entire approach to the war, including his assumptions about both the Israelis and Palestinians, has been so far off the mark, that any betting person would give his plan very long odds.  If there is to be any long-term resolution to the conflict it must be imposed on Israel by a global movement of international bodies like the UN and the European Union. And by a grassroots movement for a Palestinian state.

A conviction of Netanyahu by the International Criminal Court would play a major role in weakening Israeli opposition. As long as the world gives cover to genocide, there will be no accountability and Israelis will continue their policies of Occupation, land theft, ethnic cleansing, and genocide.

I would not break out the champagne just yet. In fact, this proposal sits on a rickety platform. There are so many moving parts and so many ways in which the wheels can fall off, that success, in fact, seems a long way off. In fact, I believe it will meet the same fate as scores of such agreements announced with great fanfare in the past.

Richard Silverstein

Richard Silverstein is an author, journalist and blogger, with articles appearing in Haaretz, the Jewish Forward, Los Angeles Times, the Guardian’s Comment Is Free, Al Jazeera English, and Alternet. His work has also been in the Seattle Times, American Conservative Magazine, Beliefnet and Tikkun Magazine, where he is on the advisory board. Check out Silverstein's blog at Tikun Olam, one of the earliest liberal Jewish blogs, which he has maintained since February, 2003.

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