Rafah offensive could widen rift between Israel, US


Amid ongoing violence in Gaza, the US has distanced itself from its ally Israel like never before. Experts believe, however, that the rift between these countries could widen further if Israel does not heed the US’s warnings against an attack on the densely populated city of Rafah.

RNews reported earlier that fighting between Israeli troops and the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas also raged in this southern city last week.

Although pres. Joe Biden said on Saturday that the US will never abandon Israel, he did emphasize that there are “certain red lines that Israel must not cross in its war in Gaza”.

In recent weeks, the US has also increasingly criticized its ally – and in particular Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel – for its approach to the war. The US is also concerned about the serious humanitarian crisis that is spreading further in Gaza.

Israel is also furious after the US abstained from voting on Monday when a resolution was tabled by the United Nations (UN) Security Council. All 14 other members of the Security Council voted in favor of the resolution and it was consequently adopted. Among other things, it demands an immediate and lasting ceasefire for the month of Ramadan, which must also lead to a sustainable ceasefire.

In light of this, Netanyahu postponed a delegation to the US to discuss this country’s concerns about Rafah.

‘USA must turn off arms spigots’

Nevertheless, Biden said earlier that the US has no intention of cutting military assistance to Israel. After all, it is the USA’s biggest hold on Israel.

Some observers believe that this is precisely the kind of influence that the US must use if it really wants Israel to lay down its weapons in Gaza.

Annelle Sheline, who recently resigned from the US Department of State in protest, says that actions such as the resolution and plans to urgently provide emergency aid to Gaza ultimately amount to publicity stunts.

“I can only hope that things really start to change. “Unfortunately, I still don’t see the US using its influence to end or withdraw support for Israel’s military operations and turn off the arms,” ​​she told AFP.

Michael Singh, managing director of the Washington Institute for Near-Middle Eastern Policy, a policy organization in the US, agrees that arms limitation will have a much stronger impact (strategically and politically) than a resolution that has no tangible impact on Israel’s ability to have conflict.

Israel has previously said that violence will continue until Hamas is completely destroyed. The war in Gaza broke out after Hamas fighters launched an attack on the south of Israel on October 7 last year and killed more than 1,400 citizens.

According to Gaza’s health department, 32,333 Palestinians have already died in the war, most of whom are women and children.

Hamas is still holding more than 100 Israeli hostages while Israel has thousands of Palestinian prisoners in custody.

US support declines, ‘friction’ may be good

The US has repeatedly warned Israel against attacks on Rafah, where more than 1.4 million Palestinians are currently taking refuge. However, Netanyahu said Israel would continue with attacks in that area.

US officials have requested talks with Israel, saying the country will offer alternatives to the Israeli delegation to strike Hamas targets while limiting civilian casualties.

Stephen Wertheim, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says that this offer clearly indicates that the US is expecting a military operation in Rafah and is trying to limit the damage of that operation.

A Gallup poll released Wednesday indicates that only 36% of Americans approve of Israel’s actions. In November last year, this percentage stood at 50%.

However, Wertheim believes that Israel and the US can benefit from distance between the two countries – especially in light of upcoming elections.

Biden is a lifelong supporter of Israel, but must face a tough re-election battle in November. Anger from the left about the ongoing violence in Gaza is especially palpable in Biden’s Democratic Party.

Netanyahu, in turn, is also fighting for his political career at the helm of a far-right coalition. Moreover, Netanyahu has already butted heads with Democratic presidents several times and aligned himself with the Republican Party to a large extent in his career.

“Both Biden and Netanyahu benefit from having some friction between them,” Wertheim said.