Biden’s risky diplomatic mission to Israel must prove critics wrong – his authority and regional stability are at stake | Dominic Waghorn | World News
Joe Biden’s mission in the Middle East is risky to say the least.
He believes he needs to be here to send a message in person to friends and foes.
To his Israeli allies, he is showing solidarity after the worst loss of civilian life in the country’s history, the most appalling and depraved slaughter of innocents.
We have your back, is the message for Israel. But he must also urge them not to overreach.
The US president is a foreign affairs veteran. From his long decades of experience in the US Senate and as a former vice president, he knows the perils of this region more than almost anyone in US politics.
If Israel goes too far in Gaza then sentiment and passions will be inflamed further across the Muslim world. We have seen that already.
The Gaza hospital tragedy has been blamed, rightly or wrongly, on Israel – leading to unrest from Morocco to Indonesia.
As one observer once wryly noted, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict observes reverse Vegas rules.
What happens in Israel and the occupied territories does not always stay there.
In terms of combustible sentiment, the region is tinder-dry after more than a year of tensions.
Muslims believe Israel’s government under Benjamin Netanyahu, which includes far-right Jewish settler extremists, has upset the fragile status quo over Jerusalem.
They believe the al Aqsa mosque and compound, Islam’s third most holy shrine, has been violated by Israeli security forces.
And rules about Jewish access to the site have been shifted, they say, against the longstanding agreements.
None of that justifies the atrocities carried out by Hamas, but the organisation will use those inflamed passions to suit its extreme agenda.
It makes the chances of escalation across the world more real.
The US president hopes his presence sends a message to enemies too, along with two US naval carrier groups.
The risk is that none of this works, that the region erupts anyway, and his authority and influence are seen as impotent.
And he risks being seen as too close to the Israelis.
Diplomats from what is called the global south have expressed their outrage at Israel’s reaction already.
Why is it acceptable for Israel to cut off Gaza’s innocent civilians from power, fuel and food, they ask, when Russia’s efforts to deprive Ukrainians of electricity have been condemned as war crimes by the West?
That perception of one-sided hypocrisy is not helped by the cancellation of a summit of regional leaders with Biden here in Amman.
He had hoped to balance the photo ops in Israel with pictures of him standing alongside Arab leaders in Jordan.
Critics will say Biden would have been wiser to stay at home and leave the diplomacy to diplomats.
Coming here, they say, risks making matters much worse. He must now prove them wrong.