President Joe Biden pressure on Israel not enough, say dissenting US officials

President Biden‘s pressure on Israel after last week’s deadly attack on aid workers did not go far enough and will fail to stem the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, according to current and former US officials who have spoken to the BBC.

They said internal dissent in government was growing and called for tougher action on arms transfers. Israel said it would open new aid routes after President Biden threatened to reassess policy following Israeli strikes that killed seven workers from food charity World Central Kitchen (WCK), including a US citizen.

But the tougher line was “too little, too late”, said Annelle Sheline, an official working in human rights who quit the state department in protest a fortnight ago.

She said the White House “could have done this months ago and prevented famine in northern Gaza”.The US-Israel relationship is currently experiencing its most serious strain in decades, after President Biden’s phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week that amounted to a defining moment in the six-month conflict.

Within hours of Mr Biden’s call, Israel said it would open the Erez crossing in northern Gaza and the port of Ashdod in southern Israel to aid, and pledged to drastically improve security co-ordination with groups delivering assistance to Palestinians.In a newly-aired interview, Mr Biden said he believed the Israeli prime minister was making “a mistake” in his handling of Gaza.

President Joe Biden

Speaking days after the Israeli strike on WCK workers – and before Israel announced the opening of the Erez crossing – he said his ally should “just call for a ceasefire” with Hamas, and allow “total access to all food and medicine” for Gaza.Despite the steps taken by Mr Netanyahu last week, the views of seven current and former US government officials reflect the way internal objections to policy continue to mount. They said many government workers were voicing their frustrations in unofficial forums that include at least a dozen groups on messaging apps, which the officials said counted hundreds of administration staff as members.

A spokesperson for the US state department said it encouraged different views on policy and staff could make them known through “appropriate channels”. The US had “been clear at the highest levels publicly and privately with Israel that it must abide by international humanitarian law”, the spokesperson said.

Israel doing the bare minimum, official says
Four current officials at varying levels of seniority in different government departments spoke to the BBC on condition of anonymity. Two have roles in areas with direct links to foreign policy, including on Israel and Gaza.

One who has 25 years of national security experience said internal opposition had become “deeper, wider and more despairing” than at any previous point in the war. While the increase in pressure from President Biden last week was welcome, it did not go far enough to reflect the “moral urgency” to act, they said.

Source: BBC

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