Biden’s ‘day after’ plan for Gaza reflects ignorance and incompetence

In its haste to divert attention away from its complicity in what is now a legal charge against Israel of genocide in Gaza, the United States administration under Joe Biden is working hard to promote its plan for the so-called “day after.” That is the day when Israel’s work in Gaza is finally done, either because there is finally some global pressure to make it stop, or it achieves its genocidal goals. 

As with virtually all of Biden’s foreign policy from the start of his administration, especially in the Middle East, the ideas generated by this “day after” thinking are rooted in American hubris and ignorance of the people they are dealing with, and are, therefore, doomed to failure. 

One of Biden’s top advisers, Brett McGurk, has been promoting a plan that continues the futile ideas that the Biden administration was pushing before the events of October 7. McGurk is recommending that the United States tie funding for reconstruction in Gaza to a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia and that this include a “political horizon” toward a Palestinian state.

This is the same failed policy that Biden has been chasing since his first day in office, a policy that has consistently moved farther away from reality, not closer.

If all this sounds distressingly familiar, that’s because it is. This is the same failed policy that Biden has been chasing since his first day in office, a policy that has consistently moved farther away from reality, not closer. It is a notion that, as one U.S. official told the Huffington Post, is “delusionally optimistic.” 

More than that, it is the very definition of insanity: repeatedly trying the same thing and expecting a different result. Yet, in this case, it might be that the plot’s success or failure is irrelevant. McGurk is reported to have told people that he is recommending that the plan, if accepted, be sold as a foreign policy triumph for Biden and that he do a victory tour throughout the Mideast to boost his election chances. That tour would take place in the months after an agreement on normalization was reached.

That simply substitutes one delusion for another. It not only ignores the fact that none of the parties, except possibly the Saudis, are in a position to accept such a deal, but also assumes that within a few months of its acceptance, the situation in both Gaza and the region would look so different that Biden could have his own “mission accomplished” moment, regardless of whether it might, like George W. Bush’s, turn out to be a tragic joke.

This isn’t just McGurk pushing his own policy idea; it clearly has Biden’s buy-in. At the World Economic Forum, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan made it clear that the normalization plan is the central piece in Biden’s thinking about the future of Palestine and Israel. 

“We determined the best approach was to work towards a package deal that involved normalization between Israel and key Arab states, together with meaningful progress and a political horizon for the Palestinian people,” Sullivan told the audience at Davos

Sullivan’s delusion would not last long.

The scope of Biden’s ignorance 

Sullivan — who, just before October 7, said that the Middle East was “quieter than it has been in two decades” — once again demonstrated his and Biden’s complete obliviousness to conditions in the region. Even before Sullivan mentioned this plan, the Israeli Prime Minister had already told Secretary of State Antony Blinken that he rejected it. 

A report in the Times of Israel soon after Sullivan’s speech confirmed what anyone with any knowledge of Israel already knew: that Netanyahu would never accept a Palestinian state, least of all just a few months after launching his genocidal campaign against Gaza. It’s not just that the right flank in his government would bring down the government. The idea of a Palestinian state is doctrinally rejected by Netanyahu’s own Likud party, and the rest of his coalition. 

Moreover, in the wake of October 7 and the non-stop drumbeat of anti-Palestinian hate flooding from Israeli news media, even the Israeli opposition that might officially stick to a two-state solution — such as Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party or Benny Gantz’s Blue and White faction, both of whom met with Blinken last week — are not going to endorse a Palestinian state now, or for some time after the destruction of Gaza ends. 

Indeed, the opposition, including the National Unity Bloc that Gantz’s party is part of includes the New Hope Party, which is as fundamentally opposed to a Palestinian state as the Likud. There is no currently visible Israeli constituency significant enough to realistically hope for a two-state scenario. 

The United States has a long history of misunderstanding the Mideast, but this level of ignorance and willful blindness far surpass anything we’ve seen before.

It should be a major cause for concern for any American, and, indeed, much of the world, that Biden, Blinken, Sullivan, and the rest of this administration are this ignorant of Israel, let alone of the Palestinians or the rest of the region. 

The United States has a long history of misunderstanding the Mideast, but this level of ignorance and willful blindness far surpass anything we’ve seen before. Worse, the fact that Blinken already knew that Netanyahu had flatly rejected any hint of a Palestinian state, but that Sullivan somehow didn’t get the memo, reflects a level of incompetence that should terrify us all in these volatile times. 

If the Biden administration is misreading Israel this badly, it should come as no surprise that they are doing even worse in the Arab world, including Palestine. 

Biden’s alternative reality Palestine

It is always dangerous when politicians start to believe their own propaganda. Sullivan demonstrated this when referring to Israeli-Saudi normalization, he said, “… it was our progress toward that goal that Hamas sought to destroy on October 7, when they came across the border into Israel, viciously massacred 1,200 people, took more than 200 hostages, and then turned and fled…”

The narrative Biden pushed out almost immediately after October 7 was that Hamas was “afraid of peace” — the peace that normalization would, he argued, bring to both Israelis and Palestinians. The narrative turns reality on its head.

Potential normalization very likely was a significant factor in Hamas’ decision to launch the October 7 attack. But it was not fear of peace that was behind that thinking. Rather, it was the fact that, diplomatically, Israeli-Saudi normalization is one of, if not the very last card the Palestinians have to play. For years, Israel and the U.S. have shoved Palestine out of sight and further from the center of Middle East diplomacy, with the Abraham Accords representing the most significant blow. Relations with the Saudis are the last big prize Israel wants to secure, and that gives the Palestinians some small degree of leverage, as the Saudis are, in contrast to the United Arab Emirates, for example, reluctant to be seen as abandoning the Palestinian cause.

The misreading of Palestine goes much deeper than that, however. McGurk’s plan envisions a “reformed” Palestinian Authority (PA) taking “control” of both the West Bank and Gaza. By “reformed,” they mean a PA that is no longer headed by Mahmoud Abbas, but by someone just as pliant and submissive, but whose stock with the Palestinian public has not yet been thoroughly depleted by routine humiliations by Washington and Israel. 

Little else would change, other than perhaps an agreement by whomever the U.S. and Israel designate as Abbas 2.0 to halt payments to the families of Palestinians killed or imprisoned for violent resistance against Israel. The leadership would be imposed on the Palestinian people. Does this really sound like a plan the Palestinian public will accept, especially after the slaughter in Gaza?

The Saudis, of course, remain the one party that comes out ahead in all of this. They can afford to wait until conditions are ripe for normalization. They couldn’t care less about Biden’s electoral concerns nor Netanyahu’s legal and political crises. They have already made it clear that they will demand significant gifts from the United States in terms of military benefits and nuclear technology if they are to agree to normalization. The lack of discussion of this point in recent days strongly indicates that Riyadh is satisfied that, if the deal is closed, they will get much of what they’ve demanded

The destruction of Gaza has reconfigured the Saudi demands only slightly. Given that a recent poll shows that an astounding 96% of Saudis believe that not only should their government refuse normalization with Israel, but the rest of the Arab world should cut any ties they have with Israel as well, the Saudi leadership made clearer demands of a commitment to a Palestinian state. Speaking at Davos, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan said that “regional peace means peace for Israel,” but “that can only happen with a Palestinian state.”

What the U.S. has failed to understand all along is that the Saudis have plenty of time. They have no need to rush normalization. It can come in five years, ten years, or more. 

Blinken claims to have secured a promise from Netanyahu that he will not launch a full-scale attack against Lebanon, and, in yet another sign of his incompetence, he apparently took the Israeli premier at his word. Again, this should be a matter of grave concern to all of us. That kind of credulity in a leading American decision-maker puts the whole world at risk. 

To date, more than 24,000 Palestinians have paid the ultimate price for Biden’s murderous bigotry and gross incompetence, characteristics he shares with the top embers of his team working in the Mideast, including Blinken, McGurk, and Sullivan, as they all repeatedly demonstrate. That figure is likely quite low, given the unknown number of people buried in the rubble in Gaza. 

Israelis, too, have paid a terrible price for the racism of their country, the corrupt and murderous nature of their leadership, and American policy that indulges the worst of Israeli fears and bigotry while offering nothing to allow Palestinians their inalienable rights, which is the only way ever to realize security for all the people between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. 

Yemenis, Lebanese, Iraqis, and Syrians also continue to pay the price for the racism and incompetence of Joe Biden and his accomplices. These tragedies must end, and we in the United States must lead the demand for that change. 


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