Biden, U.S. Pay High Price for Support of Israel’s Merciless Bombing of Gaza

Interview with Trita Parsi, executive vice president, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, conducted by Scott Harris

After a 7-day “humanitarian pause” in Israel’s war in Gaza, during which Hamas released 110 Israeli and dual national hostages, and Israel freed 240 Palestinian prisoners, the temporary truce negotiated by Qatar ended on Dec. 1. Since Israel resumed its airstrikes and ground assault, Gaza health officials report that 1,000 people have been killed, with a total of more than 16,000 Palestinians who’ve lost their lives since the war began on Oct. 7, following the Hamas attack on Israel that killed 1,200 men, women and children.

The UN’s top aid official said the Israeli military campaign in southern Gaza created “apocalyptic” conditions, ending any possibility of meaningful humanitarian operations. Meanwhile, in the Israeli occupied West Bank, human rights groups say that extremist Israeli settlers and soldiers have killed 260 Palestinians and carried out attacks on dozens of Palestinian communities since the war started.

President Biden’s quiet diplomacy urging Israel to do more to prevent the deaths of Palestinian civilians has had little effect. Now Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and other Democratic senators say Israel must adopt measures to reduce civilian deaths in Gaza as part of receiving $14.3 billion in additional U.S. aid. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Here he talks about conditions in Gaza, and the high price President Biden is paying for his initial support of Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of Gaza that has killed so many Palestinian civilians.

TRITA PARSI: Well, I don’t think that everyone in the United States really knew that Gaza was considered an open-air prison even before all of this started, 2.3 million people are in a very, very small piece of land technically still occupied by Israel because Israel has been controlling its borders, what comes in and what goes out of there. And on top of that, now, you have this massive bombing campaign.

1.8 million people are internally displaced and without water, without electricity, without any food coming in from the outside. We already have a situation in which, beyond the risk of getting killed in the bombing, now you also have the risk of people dying from starvation, from polluted water, etc. So from a perspective, it’s an extremely, extremely difficult and dire situation.

SCOTT HARRIS: There’s an important change that seems to be taking place within the Biden administration, maybe best represented by comments by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. And this is a quote. He said, “In this kind of a fight, the center of gravity is the civilian population. And if you drive them into the arms of the enemy, you replace a tactical victory with a strategic defeat.”

Now, of course, that is his language in addressing the massive civilian casualties, the thousands of dead children and women and men who have died in these — I think you could only describe it as indiscriminate bombing of Gaza over this seven-week period. What do you make of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s comments here?

TRITA PARSI: They’re very important comments. I’m not convinced yet, however, that they’re actually reflective of a change within the administration, in the sense of the administration actually starting to favor a ceasefire and putting some pressure on Israel. So it’s unclear at this point whether this is a personal analysis, an effort to show that there is some dissent within the administration on this point or whether it actually is an indication of a change that is about to come or that is growing within the administration.

I certainly hope it is the latter, because the United States is absolutely in a position with the leverage that it has to be able to put an end to this fighting, pushing on both sides, a ceasefire, which I think would be needed not just because of humanitarian and moral concerns, but also because as long as the fighting goes on and we don’t have a ceasefire, that’s also when we have these attacks against U.S. troops in the region, which does risk creating a larger conflict and dragging the United States into a new war in the Middle East, which clearly would be against our interests, the interest of the American people.

But unfortunately does not seem to have been the top concern of the administration thus far.

SCOTT HARRIS: And Trita, in your recent article where you discuss this, the ultimate cost of Biden’s refusal to call for a full ceasefire in Gaza. You talk about the fact that because the Biden administration has given a green light for Israel’s relentless, indiscriminate bombing of Gaza that has killed, as we’ve said, 15,000 Palestinian civilians, that this has done more damage to America’s standing across the Middle East than even George W. Bush’s illegal war in Iraq.

TRITA PARSI: Indeed, this is a strong view held by many in the region and beyond, because it’s not just damage that is done to the U.S. in the Middle East — but also around the world, particularly in the global south, which are increasingly important countries. This is creating a tremendous amount of damage and in the view of many in the region, is that it is damaging the U.S. beyond what happened with the illegal war in Iraq conducted by George W. Bush’s administration.

Because at least back then, you had strong opposition from Germany and France and other European countries, which then did not allow that war to have a dimension or a quality looking as if it was a civilizational clash between the West and the Islamic world. Whereas today, unfortunately, the very strong support or blind following by several of the key European states, including Germany and the U.K., and only some opposition coming from smaller states such as Belgium and Spain.

So as a result, it does have a stronger impression of being a civilizational war, which then does make much more damage to the U.S. and the West as a whole.

For more information, visit Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft at Read Trita Parsi’s article, “The Ultimate Cost of Biden’s Refusal to Call for a Full Cease-fire in Gaza.” 

Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with Trita Parsi (16:08) and see more articles and opinion pieces in the Related Links section of this page.

For the best listening experience and to never miss an episode, subscribe to Between The Lines on your favorite podcast app or platform: Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsAmazon MusicTunein+ AlexaCastboxOvercastPodfriend,
iHeartRadioCastroPocket CastsRSS Feed.

Or subscribe to our Between The Lines and Counterpoint Weekly Summary. 

Subscribe to our Weekly Summary