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How US blind support for Israel could end its global hegemony

Another war or military entanglement in the Middle East will not only complicate America’s geopolitical calculus but could undermine its stranglehold on the region and beyond
US President Joe Biden holds a press conference at the Rose Garden at the White House on 25 October 2023 (AFP)

Since its inception, one of Israel's major imperatives as an aggressive and expansionist state has been to secure the support and patronage of a strong international power.

Britain initially played this role with the Balfour Declaration in 1917 and during its mandate over Palestine. It empowered and facilitated significant numbers of European Jewish communities to invade and settle in Palestine, take over Palestinian lands militarily, and expel most of the indigenous Arab population from their villages, towns, and cities in 1948.

Over the next two decades, Israel relied primarily on western countries such as Britain, France, Germany, and the United States for arms, funds, and political support. This backing included the 1956 tripartite invasion of Egypt with Britain and France, German reparations, and US weapons and political protection.

Starting with the Nixon administration in the early 1970s, the relationship between the US and Israel began to expand significantly and develop strategically. US economic and military support grew substantially after Israel’s victory over several Arab armies in 1967.

In order to serve its Cold War geopolitical objectives in the Middle East, the US adopted and aided Israel’s goal of becoming a regional hegemon. But after decades of unyielding support, the US involvement in Israel’s latest war could in fact prove to be the undoing of American global hegemony.

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Blind support

During the last half-century, the relationship between the US and Israel evolved from Washington being Tel Aviv’s enabler and protector to being a strategic partner.

The US has become the principal provider of the most advanced military equipment and economic aid and has given Israel steady political cover, including 46 vetoes in the United Nations Security Council since 1973.

Every president since Richard Nixon - 10 of them - cast vetoes during their tenure. Israel has received more than $260bn from the US since 1971, in addition to many more billions given by private institutions and Israeli bonds.

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Since the 7 October, Palestinian fighters' attack against Israeli military bases and settlements, the US has repeatedly and “unreservedly” endorsed Israel’s brutal attack on Gaza, which has resulted in thousands of civilian victims, at a rate of 150 children killed per day, and total destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure.

The US has given Israel steady political cover, including 46 vetoes in the United Nations Security Council since 1973

More than 8,300 Palestinians have been killed and 22,000 injured so far, and more than 2,000 have gone missing. More than two-thirds have been children, women, and the elderly.

During this mayhem and genocidal war, the US has continued to lend its blind support to Israel, arguing that it has the “right to defend itself” with no regard for international humanitarian laws and conventions.

In addition, American media outlets and politicians, including President Joe Biden, have peddled Israeli lies without any evidence, like the debunked stories of decapitated babies, rapes, and the attempted extermination of Israeli Jews.

After Israel’s bombing of the Baptist hospital in Gaza, which killed 471 people, they repeated the well-worn Israeli lie of blaming Palestinians despite the overwhelming evidence showing Israeli culpability.

Ignoring the context

For three decades, the US has presented itself as an “honest broker” trying to reach a political settlement in this conflict based on the so-called two-state solution.

Yet it’s incontestable among observers and analysts that throughout this entire period, the US has fully backed Israeli policies to dispossess the Palestinians and deny them their legitimate rights or even the minimum required for a political settlement.

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In their response to recent events, the US and its European allies have deliberately ignored the context in which the attacks took place.

Since the current right-wing Israeli government came to power 10 months ago, it’s been trying to impose its vision of ending the conflict by creating new facts on the ground. It would force the Palestinians to choose one of three options: accept an apartheid system, leave, or be killed.

In 2023, Netanyahu’s extremist partners, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, were empowered to carry out their plans in the West Bank. Smotrich, who infamously declared that Palestinians don’t exist, has already expedited Israeli settlement construction, seeking to double the settler population in the occupied territories to one million people.

Extremists and settlers further accelerated their raids and invasion of Al-Aqsa Mosque compound this year, threatening to impose tighter entry restrictions on Palestinians. In the three weeks prior to October 7, Israeli incursion into Al-Aqsa became an almost daily event, punctuated by aggressive behaviour and insults.

In the first nine months of this year, the Ben-Gvir-led security forces in the West Bank targeted Palestinian activists for assassination. They stormed refugee camps and villages, killing almost 200 Palestinians, including 27 children.

Meanwhile, more than 5,500 Palestinian prisoners are being held under harsh conditions in Israeli prisons. This year, the extremist government took away the few rights the prisoners gained over decades of struggle. Among these prisoners are 1,860 people currently held in arbitrary detention without charges. Since 7 October, well over 1,000 Palestinians have been arrested across the West Bank in addition to the more than 100 killed.

Compounding these long-standing injustices is the suffocating siege imposed on Gaza over the last 16 years without any relief in sight.

While it was ignoring all of these provocations, the US continued to pay lip service to supporting a vague two-state solution. The only deal it tried to broker, however, was Israel-Saudi normalisation, while totally ignoring the plight of the Palestinians.

Against this backdrop, Palestinian resistance groups saw no other option but to launch their 7 October operation.

Their stated goals were to force an end to the desecration of Al-Aqsa mosque, stop Israeli military incursions into West Bank towns and cities that have killed hundreds, drive a prisoner exchange, lift the siege on Gaza, and send a strong message to the world that there would be no peace or normalisation at the expense of Palestinian rights.

The final blow

The Palestinian surprise attack shattered the myth of the invincibility of the Israeli army and the superiority of its intelligence services. It shook Israel’s political and military class to its core and fractured its society.

In their unrelenting support, western leaders have been trying to boost Israel’s sagging morale. During the last two weeks, they provided Israel with a seemingly unlimited supply of weapons to pursue its ruthless war on Gaza. They enabled its policy of collective punishment of Palestinians, half of whom are children.

Israel’s horrific bombing of Gaza has infuriated millions worldwide, particularly in the Arab and Islamic world, threatening a global backlash against the US

Within days, the US administration submitted a request to Congress for $14.3bn in aid to improve Israel’s slumping economy. It also dispatched naval ships, aircraft carriers and advanced weapons systems, and even arms and soldiers to Jordan, to deter other parties in the region such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iran and its regional allies in Iraq, Yemen, and Syria, from lending their support to resisting Palestinians.

Biden himself flew to Israel to personally declare his enthusiastic support and even accidentally posted on Instagram a photo of himself shaking hands with members of the US Delta Force deployed there.

The US has since expressed its shared goal with Israel to eliminate the military capabilities of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other resistance movements in Gaza. It has callously defended collective punishment by seeking to inflict tremendous violence on Palestinians to “turn them against Hamas” and permanently end the group’s rule in Gaza.

However, the US knows too well that such grand objectives entail great risks and peril. Its experiences - and losses - in Vietnam, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq are just a few examples of the dangers of allowing a full-scale ground invasion against an indigenous resistance.

If the US directly joins Israel in its war against the Palestinians or their allies, it would be very difficult to contain a wider regional war that could spread to other countries and ultimately undermine US interests.

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Israel’s ongoing horrific bombing of Gaza has infuriated millions worldwide, particularly in the Arab and Islamic world, threatening a global backlash against western countries, especially the US.

The US’s full backing of Israel’s genocidal war and ethnic cleansing of Gaza could be the final blow to the American-led global order.

Its resources are spread thin and US politicians may no longer continue providing a blank check to Ukraine to fight its war with Russia - yet another blatant display of American hypocrisy and double standards - or invest in containing China’s rise in East and Southeast Asia, a real peer competitor to US global power around the world.

Another war or military entanglement in the Middle East will not only complicate America’s geopolitical calculus but could undermine its stranglehold on the region and possibly beyond.

As Lenin once observed: “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.”

We now live in such a time in which the future of the region could soon be determined for decades to come.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Sami Al-Arian is the Director of the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) at Istanbul Zaim University. Originally from Palestine, he lived in the US for four decades (1975-2015) where he was a tenured academic, prominent speaker and human rights activist before relocating to Turkey. He is the author of several studies and books. He can be contacted at: [email protected].
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