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Biden Only Bluffing in Threat to Halt Weapons Flow to Israel - Veteran Diplomats

© AP Photo / Evan VucciPresident Joe Biden is greeted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport, on Oct. 18, 2023, in Tel Aviv
President Joe Biden is greeted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport, on Oct. 18, 2023, in Tel Aviv - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.05.2024
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - US President Joe Biden's threat to withhold weapons from Israel if it goes ahead with a major offensive in Rafah is an election bluff to prevent defections from the Democratic Party amid plunging public support for the Gaza war, two former Western ambassadors to Arab nations and an ex-CIA station chief in Syria told Sputnik.
Last week, Biden said Washington would restrict the supply of weapons to Israel if the latter launched a major military incursion into Rafah. The warning came as the Israeli army started a military operation in the eastern parts of Rafah and took control of the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing with Egypt.
The US has also paused one shipment of weapons for Israel consisting of 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs. A State Department report published on Friday found that it is "reasonable to assess" that US-provided defense articles have been used by Israeli security forces since October 7 "in instances inconsistent with its IHL obligations or with established best practices for mitigating civilian harm," but stopped short of reaching any definitive conclusion.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and US President Joe Biden on October 18, 2023. - Sputnik International, 1920, 11.05.2024
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Political Stunt

"[Biden's warning] must be seen as a political stunt rather than a change in policy," former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia Chas Freeman said. "This is part of a slow administration retreat from all-out support for the genocide in Gaza, but it is limited to certain particularly inhumane weapons, tentative, temporary, and offset by continuing grants of military aid of other sorts to Israel," Freeman said.
Biden recognized the erosion of his support over the Gaza issue but had acted too little and too late to end or reverse that process, Freeman observed.
"The retreat is a half-hearted and grudging response to the rising demands of young voters and other previous constituents for an end to the US enablement of genocide in Palestine," he said.
Significant portions of the Democratic Party base had already been alienated from President Biden, Freeman pointed out.
Nor would Biden's actions succeed in influencing or restraining Israeli policy, Freeman predicted.
"Few imagine that will have a serious effect on Israeli policies aimed at eliminating the Palestinian presence in Palestine," he said.
Sad Joe Biden photo from 2014. Source of endless internet memes. - Sputnik International, 1920, 09.05.2024
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Changes Nothing

Former UK Ambassador to Syria and veteran diplomat Peter Ford agreed that Biden's maneuvers in reality changed nothing.
"The move to restrict military supplies to Israel is cosmetic, a fake gesture by a flailing and failing President. Its aim is more to buy off a US public increasingly revolted by the US-supported savagery they see with their own eyes, than to restrain America's Middle East attack dog," he said.
The practical effect on the Israeli military of withholding 2,000-pound bombs will be negligible, Ford pointed out.
"Israel has stockpiles enough of bombs not to need more of a vile US weapon for which causing massive civilian suffering is not a flaw but a feature. It also has phalanxes of tanks ready to flatten what is left of East Rafah after the waves of bombing," he said.
Biden had taken no action to restrain the Israeli military when they had inflicted thousands of civilian casualties in their previous operations in Gaza City and Khan Yunis, Ford pointed out.
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Increasing Outrage

However, now Biden is reacting not to Israel but to the rapidly changing political conditions and increasing outrage over the war back in the United States, Ford pointed out.
"What has changed? What's changed is the student revolt across America, putting Biden's already dim re-election prospects into even deeper doubt," he said.
Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were in reality cooperating in a balancing act to satisfy their conflicting domestic constituencies, Ford believes.
"The deal seems to be this: Biden gets to look like he is trying to restrict Israel, without actually doing so, while Netanyahu gets to look tough with salami slicing tactics - East Rafah today, West Rafah tomorrow, then Al Mawasi," he said
Operating in that incremental way could allow Netanyahu to fall short of the "major incursion" that the US government has portrayed as some sort of red line, without saying what the consequence would be for crossing it, Ford noted.

"No, nothing ever really changes in the way the United States indulges its Middle East partner in crime," he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a joint press conference with the German Chancellor after their meeting in Jerusalem on March 17, 2024. - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.04.2024
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It's All About Election

"I think this is a scam with Biden pretending to do something to satisfy those in his party and the electorate who are disgusted with what is going on in Gaza while at the same time continuing the secret flow of whatever Israel wants [and] needs to Netanyahu," Philip Giraldi, CIA’s former Damascus station chief and chair of the Council for the National Interest, said.
Giraldi also assessed Biden's maneuvers as a ploy to maintain a credible base for his reelection campaign this fall.
"It is little more than a gesture that is really all about the upcoming election!" he said.
Veteran Middle East analyst Sam Husseini agreed with the former diplomats and intelligence officer that Biden had not dared to change US policy toward Israel in any significant way.
"I don't think this is a serious move. US government support for Israel is still overwhelming," he said.
Husseini agreed that Biden was simply maneuvering tactically in order to continue supporting Israel fully while pretending to the American public that he was not.
"This may be an election maneuver given how deeply unpopular Biden's backing of Israel's genocide is with the public and esp among Democrats. He has to pretend to distance himself from Netanyahu," he said.
However, the move might also be the start of a more complex US maneuver to allow Israel to ultimately destroy Gaza, Husseini suggested.
"It may even be more insidious. It may be an attempt by the US government to try to pretend to be a mediator to try to get Hamas to fork over the captives so that Israel can more completely destroy Gaza," Husseini said.
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