US President Joe Biden focused on humanitarian aid for the civilian population of Gaza in his last phone call with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and reminded him that though he supports Israel’s right to defend itself citizens against terrorism it must do so in a manner consistent with international humanitarian law.
“I want you to know you're not alone. You are not alone,” Bien said during his visit to Israel. “As I emphasised earlier, we will continue to have Israel's back as you work to defend your people. We'll continue to work with you and partners across the region to prevent more tragedy to innocent civilians.”
But there was not a word about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza however it changed quite dramatically.
“The President discussed ongoing US support for the continuous flow of humanitarian support to the civilian population in Gaza and welcomed efforts to increase this support over the coming period,” the White House said in a readout of Biden’s call with Netanyahu on Wednesday.
“The President reiterated that Israel has every right and responsibility to defend its citizens from terrorism and to do so in a manner consistent with international humanitarian law.”
The welfare of the civilian population of Gaza has been a refrain in the conversations the US is having with Israel at multiple levels. There is talk now of a “humanitarian pause” in the hostilities to allow aid and relief to reach people who want and need it. It has been raised and echoed by both the White House and the State Department lately as prospects of a ground operation by the Israeli military has become inevitable.
The White House is adjusting and aligning its position on the Israel-Hamas conflict in keeping with pressures abroad and at home.
The US allies in the region — chiefly Egypt and Jordan, which are also recipients of US aid in billions — have sought protection of the Gaza civilians and have made their voices resonate at the United Nations.
But pressure at home would count more for Biden, with his re-election bid just a year away. He has faced mounting pressure from the progressive members of the Democratic Party to deal an even hand to the Palestinians. Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian-descent member of the House of Representatives has been particularly vociferous.
“We are deeply concerned about the order to evacuate over a million civilians out of northern Gaza and the devastating humanitarian consequences that would ensue,” wrote the caucus in a letter to the president after Israel asked people in Gaza to more to safer locations.
“As both the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights said, imposing a complete siege on Gaza and depriving 2.3 million Palestinian civilians who have nowhere else to go — half of whom are children — of food, water, and electricity, would be a violation of international humanitarian law.”