A poll released recently by the Brookings Institute shows that over half of Americans (46% of Republicans and 57% of Democrats) do not know what the Biden administration’s position is on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Surprising? Not really. Because although the administration has a position on the issue, it does not have a solid policy, and definitely not the kind of vision-driven conflict-solving policy that past administrations had.
Based on private conversations and public statements by members of the Biden administration’s Middle East policy team, the administration’s policy on this issue partially stems from Israel’s policy, which can best be characterized as “conflict management” rather than conflict resolution.
The conflict-management attitudes of both the Israeli government and the Biden administration were on display recently both during President Biden’s July visit to the region, and - even more so – in the context of last week’s hostilities between Israel and the Gaza Strip’s Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
The recent round of violence demonstrated once more that Israel does not have a long-term, vision-harnessed policy toward the Gaza Strip, or the West Bank, for that matter. Israel does have a practice that is aimed at managing its control of the Gaza Strip and the organizations that govern it. But the goal of this practice is not resolving the conflict and ending its manifestations. Rather, the goal is managing the conflict and preserving “quiet” while allowing the triggers of violence: occupation, siege, settlement expansion, to continue nearly unabated. It’s treating the symptoms rather than addressing their source.
Regrettably, this symptom-focused attitude has come to characterize the Biden administration’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
After a ceasefire was reached over the weekend, President Biden issued on August 7th a statement welcoming the cessation of hostilities and thanking those who helped. The statement said nothing about a political solution to the conflict, did not mention a two-state solution – the cornerstone of consecutive administrations’ vision for Israel-Palestine, and said nothing about a US role in brokering conflict-ending diplomacy.
Instead, the President repeated the formula we have recently heard from his administration: “Israelis and Palestinians both deserve to live safely and securely and to enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and democracy.” Biden added, “my Administration will remain engaged with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to support that vision and to implement the initiatives launched during my visit to improve the quality of life for Palestinians and Israelis alike.”
The attitude of successive the Israeli governments, which seems to have now been adopted by the US administration, is more than unhelpful. It is harmfully negligent. Rather than easing the conflict and paving a path toward its resolution, this attitude exacerbates it. Efforts to improve the quality of life of people on both sides without providing a political horizon, without providing a clear vision of normalcy, security, dignity, independence and sovereignty, and, yes, peace, only perpetuate the conflict and enhance its manifestations.
Americans for Peace Now in the United States and our sister organization Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) in Israel will not cease to remind the US administration and the Israeli government of that. We will not stop advocating for a solution– a conflict-ending solution that will usher in peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It’s vital, it’s viable, and it is well worth the effort. Most Americans support it and believe in it, whether they know what the administration’s policy is or not.