After a week and a half of war between Israel and Hamas, US President Biden visited Tel Aviv. Biden was the first US president to visit Israel during the war. That quick response is not without its own merits, thinks former foreign minister Yuri Rosenthal.
The speed of Biden’s visit mainly shows that the US is ‘unwaveringly’ supportive of Israel, says Rosenthal at BNR de Werlde. ‘Although he was confronted the evening before by the announcement of the bombing of a hospital in Gaza, it is still unclear from which side it came.’
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Biden has a vested interest in massive support for Israel, he thinks: ‘If there’s one thing Biden wants to avoid, it’s a front with Hezbollah and Iran in the north.’
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America can’t afford such a large expansion now, Rosenthal thinks. Then he sees a dream: a three-pronged world. Biden already has Ukraine on his side, he has tensions with China over Taiwan, and then he’s got another Throughout the Middle East war.’
The European Union seeks
Support for Israel quickly began in Europe as well. Still, the EU as an institution is trying to figure out how to respond to Israel’s advances, says Europe correspondent Geert Jan Hahn.
‘EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell was quick to talk about a two-state solution, which he believed was the only solution. At the same time, group leader Ursula von der Leyen herself went to Tel Aviv to express uncritical support for Israel – a view some commentators have taken. It’s not possible, you have to have some sort of Israeli strategy, and from what I understand from Brussels, there really isn’t any.
So, for now, the EU position is largely left to the member states, Hahn observes. Organizations cannot speak with one voice.
Hahn finds that this division can still be explained. ‘It’s very difficult to get it right the first time. In the Netherlands alone we have alliances with four parties, but not all of them share the same views. In Europe you have 27 countries with different visions, different histories with different relationships with Israel and the Arab world. It all plays a role.’
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Rosenthal understands the difference in first reaction between Borel (a Spaniard) and van der Leyen (a German). ‘There are many countries in Europe that follow the Israeli way very closely. These are Germany, but also the Netherlands. On the other hand, Spain or Ireland are always against Israel.
Despite these initial divisions, Hahn saw that Europe was eventually able to respond decisively to Israel’s developments. “The diplomatic meetings that were already in the program have yielded good results. At a summit for EU foreign ministers or a NATO summit in Brussels, Israel was immediately prioritized.’
Hahn now sees some agreement, at least among member state leaders, on Israel’s direction. “They understand Netanyahu and support him in decapitating Hamas, but out of proportion to Gazans and ordinary citizens. It was a lot of effort for everybody.’
Russia spins yarn
Russia has so far remained relatively quiet in its response to the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Developments there are also in Putin’s interest, Rosenthal thinks. ‘Russia is profiting from the fact that Ukraine has been completely out of the picture for two weeks, nowhere in the newspapers and on television.’
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