After a half-century of high-profile efforts by previous U.S. presidents to negotiate a comprehensive and permanent peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, the Biden administration has taken a novel decision on its Middle East policy. Summits, diplomatic shuttling, and other large-scale attempts have been made by successive U.S. administrations since Richard Nixon to bring Israeli and Palestinian leaders to the negotiating table to resolve the conflicts that have fuelled tensions in the Middle East for the past seventy-five years.
Joe Biden, in particular, has not done so as much as other recent presidents. Biden’s doctrine of “quiet diplomacy,” as described by administration officials early on, was instead drawn out. Under Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, which has urged for more settlements in the West Bank and opposes the U.S.-backed two-state solution, they pushed for more incremental improvements in Palestinian freedoms and living conditions.
With Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7 and Israel’s severe bombardment of Gaza in response, the long-term risks of ignoring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict erupted back into view. As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict erupts again into the spotlight, the United States outraged Arab partners are pointing fingers at America’s failure to engage aggressively. Killing thousands of civilians in Israel and Gaza, prompting Biden to send carrier strike groups to the region, and threatening to pour conflict and waves of Palestinian refugees over borders, the Hamas terrorists’ brutal escape from Gaza and Israel’s military mounting reaction have been devastating.
When tensions in Gaza rose this past weekend, President Biden made his first official contact with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. After the Arab nations launched a surprise attack on Israel in 1973 and imposed a crippling oil embargo on the United States and other countries for supporting Israel in that war, American authorities realized that a permanent settlement to Palestinian demands for statehood was in America’s strategic interest.
Despite initial gains, the U.S. effort was ultimately derailed by the scope of the issues, ongoing bloodshed, and unhappiness with previous mediation attempts.
Biden has enthusiastically adopted Trump’s new strategy for achieving peace in the Middle East, which involves pushing for so-called normalization treaties with Arab countries without an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
The current nightmare for Israelis and Palestinians suggests otherwise regarding Biden’s strategy.