The US-Israel relations amid the Israeli–Palestinian conflict

The roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict go back to the end of the 19th century. However, the new outbreak of the conflict between Israel and Palestine commenced on October 7, 2023, when Hamas launched its deadly attack on Israel. This was followed with aerial campaigns and ground operations by Israel within the Gaza Strip. More than one hundred Israeli and foreign hostages are still held captive by Hamas. On the other hand, the death toll in Gaza has reached around 34,000. Israel Defense Forces have renewed attacks on Rafah on May 6, 2024 despite the significant international pressure to refrain from the city as that is where more than one million Palestinians are sheltering.

 The international community is not unanimous on the matter. Some countries push for the recognition of Palestine, while others deem that issue to be part of a comprehensive resolution plan. Unfortunately, Israel and Hamas have not been able to agree for immediate cease-fire, let alone the comprehensive resolution plan. 

The United States has been a staunch supporter of Israel. At the same time since George W. Bush administration, the USA has been committed to a two-state solution. With regard to US recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state, the United States has adopted a different approach in comparison with some European countries. The USA has claimed that Palestine’s recognition as a state should be only as part of a long-term political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is known as the “two-state solution.” According to this plan both Israel and Palestine should agree to have their own states with their borders. However, Palestine is recognised by several international organizations, such as the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Some European countries have also recognized the Palestinian state, such as Hungary, Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Bulgaria which adopted the position in 1988; and others including Sweden and Cyprus. With the recent escalation of the conflict other such European states as Spain, Ireland and Norway recognized Palestine for kick-starting a political process in opposition to war. Malta and Belgium are still considering the recognition. Given the recent developments 145 out of 193 of United Nations member countries haverecognized Palestinian State. Palestine has had UN non-member observer state status since 2012 which is a status open only for recognized states.  This status gives them a seat but not a vote in the General Assembly.  In contrast 168 out of 193 UN member states have recognized Israel as a sovereign state, however Israel has been a full UN member since May 11, 1949.

It is noteworthy that most of the US administrations had similar approach to Issreali-Palestinian issue, however President Trump marked a slight change in that policy, as Trump more explicitly showed that the US favored Israel over Palestine. A number of actions were taken in this respect such as cutting US aid to Palestinians and recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and opening an embassy there. Also, the negotiation process was activated in 2020 under the Trump administration, when the Abraham Accords were signed through the USA mediation. Diplomatic agreements were signed between Israel and several Arab nations. This aimed to lay ground for a broader regional normalization in the future. However, normalization was jeopardized and now seems further than it was in 2020, after the October 7 attack. 

This new outbreak of the conflict happened under the Biden administration and it has been quite challenging for President Biden to navigate its policy towards Israel. It’s important to stress that Biden shares Israel’s objective of ending the Hamas sovereignty in Gaza and to ensure that it is never in position to make attacks like the group committed on October 7. On the other hand, Biden has himself called the attack in Gaza “over the top” and “indiscriminate.” The US did not block a UN resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, in response to which Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu postponed his visit to Washington. Apparently there has been tension in relations between Israel and the US which peaked when the US declined to deliver 2,000-pound bombs to Israel out of concern that they might be employed in a significant military operation in Rafah, potentially resulting in significant civilian casualties. The relationship between Biden and Netanyahu has been marked by significant disagreements concerning humanitarian assistance, post-war strategies, and various other matters. However, it should be noted that Israel and the USA share a strong alliance. Despite any disagreements, the USA will always stand by Israel’s side as its closest ally. This is the reason for President Biden’s recent inconsistent actions towards Israel: as one day he is pausing bomb shipments and approving other arms deals the next. No wonder President Biden’s policy has been dubbed as “passive aggressive.” Even though Bidendisapproves how Prime Minister Netanyahu is handling the conflict in Gaza, Biden’s recent decisions have been hard to track. He attempts to balance unwavering support for America’s closest ally in the Middle East with condemnation of Israel’s heavy bombing of Gaza civilians. ​​Even though there was a one-time suspension in bomb shipments, Biden and administration officials have emphasized their commitment to ongoing weapons deliveries and comprehensive military support to Israel, the largest recipient of U.S. military aid. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre rejected the idea that pausing one bomb shipment while proceeding with other weapon packages sends a mixed message. House Press Secretary Jean-Pierre noted that “Two things can be true. We can have tough conversations with our friends and allies, and we can say to our ally that look, we want to make sure that you’re able to defend yourself… Our commitment to you, Israel’s security, is ironclad.”  Analysis of video footage from the scene and assessments by explosive weapons expertsindicate that munitions manufactured in the United States were used in the lethal Israeli airstrike on a displacement camp in Rafah on Sunday. Israel’s intensifying assault in Rafah, where approximately 1.3 million Palestinians sought refuge prior to the commencement of Israeli operations, has prompted swift international condemnation. Various United Nations agencies, humanitarian organizations, and multiple governments have urged Israel to immediately cease its offensive actions. Despite this, US President Joe Biden has not altered his stance toward Israel, indicating that the deadly strike in Rafah has not yet crossed a threshold that would prompt changes in American support.

To sum up, the tension between the US and Israel political leadership does not imply an impairment of their relations overall. Such disagreements and disruptions of relations between the countries have occurred also during the previous administrations. However, one should always keep in mind that the US and Israel are strategic close allies and share common geopolitical interests in the region. Hence, the US has always preferred to try and figure out ways to work things out rather than publicly declaring the issues. Overall, “American Presidents do not like, by and large, to fight with Israeli Prime Ministers.”