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The Biden Administration Struggles to Find a Response to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

By Reilly Fitzgerald

May 14, 2021

Policy/Summary:

The Biden-Harris Administration has made it very clear throughout their first several months in the White House that their Middle East policy will be a divergence from the one that the Trump Administration had imposed throughout their term. The Trump White House’s Middle East policy was one of aggression and this was exhibited by assassinating Iranian officials, pulling out of the JCPOA (‘Iran nuclear deal’), consistently backing Israel, moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and other major decisions.

Earlier this week, Israeli and Palestinian tensions reached a high point as Palestinian militants (backed by Hamas) fired rockets into Israel. Israel has responded with violence as well and has killed numerous Palestinians. President Biden’s administration has said that it will maintain its support of a two-state solution; however, they did also express their support for Israel to be able to defend itself from attacks.

 

Analysis:

The attacks that have rocked both Israel and Palestine are due to a legal case regarding the evictions of Palestinians from their homes by Israel with the purpose of expanding their settlements into Palestinian territory. The region has been seeing extreme violence between police forces and Palestinians. The tensions between these two groups have been raging since the 1960s when the disputed borders of each country were drawn and has since been a tough subject for Presidents and their foreign policies.

President Biden’s administration has spoken several times this week regarding this issue and the message is one that is fairly consistent. The message is one of support for Israel in that they have a right to defend their country from attacks; but also, they have condemned the evictions of the Palestinians and have expressed support for finding a two-state solution.

The White House’s position of support for Israel to defend their country from attacks is a consistent message from previous administrations from George W. Bush to Barack Obama and Donald Trump. However, it gets increasingly more complex with Joe Biden’s explicit support for a two-state solution and his condemnation of the evictions of Palestinians from their homes.

On December 8th, 2020, The United Nations issued a statement saying that “The two‑State solution remains the only path to ensuring that Palestinians and Israelis can both realize their legitimate aspirations, living side‑by‑side in peace and security, based on the 1967 borders, and with Jerusalem as the capital of both States.” The two state solution has been a concept for decades and yet has remained elusive in terms of bringing tensions to a conclusive and peaceful end. Previous administrations have attempted, some more genuinely than others, to bring this conflict to a resolution. President Trump, for example, offered a peace proposal that was very much not a neutral peace plan that would evenly benefit both sides; rather it relied on increasing Israel’s security control over much of the disputed territory and also sought to demilitarize the Palestinians. Another major problem with that peace deal was that Jerusalem was only to be the capital of Israel and not be split between the countries as the United Nations has recently made a requirement of any two-state solution.

The Biden Administration has sent a State Department envoy to Jerusalem to engage with the Israeli government on this issue. The United States position of agreeing that Israel can and should defend itself against attacks will be one that could put the White House’s ambition of re-entering the JCPOA (after President Trump took us out of it) under strain due to the relationships at play: Israel and the United States being allies and the United States re-entering into a nuclear arms deal with one of their strongest enemies in Iran.

Engagement  Resources:

  1. https://teachmideast.org/ – Teach Mideast is an educational initiative started by the Middle East Policy Council. They provide regional briefs weekly, educational resources for schools and teachers, and also country profiles to assist learners in understanding the various factors at play in the Middle East.

https://www.armscontrol.org/ – Arms Control Association is an organization that specializes in educating people around the world on the issues related to arms control policy issues such as the JCPOA, and other deals.

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