Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that a United States envoy will travel to the Middle East “to urge de-escalation and to bring calm” in light of rising violence in Israel and Gaza.
We invited Truman members to respond to the question: What policy options should the Biden administration consider?
Avi Jacobson, Truman Defense Council
“The Biden administration must pursue a policy of presence in order to help de-escalate the current round of fighting between Israel and Hamas. We need an appointed and confirmed ambassador to Israel and a consul general to represent the United States to the Palestinian Authority and they need to be present. We need to accept the increased risk and allow our brave and dedicated diplomats to observe the tragic and messy realities on the ground where unprecedented intercommunal violence is spiking even as rockets are fired indiscriminately on Israeli cities, to listen, and to simply be present. Neither the simple critical act of bearing witness nor the complex facilitation of new Palestinian elections for example can be done by Zoom. And, finally, the U.S. must commit to continued military aid to ensure Israel has a sufficient supply of interceptors for the Iron Dome missile defense system. This measure, which would likely have bipartisan support in congress, is about saving the lives of Israelis and Palestinians who are threatened by the rockets from Gaza. However, the Iron Dome is equally about saving innocent lives in Gaza that are at risk from a sustained campaign against the Hamas military infrastructure embedded in residential areas through reducing harm from rockets and therefore easing the pressure to escalate. Events are spiraling. It is time to be present.”
Jennifer Atala, Truman North Carolina Chapter Director and Security Fellow, Inara Strategies
“The Biden Administration has a unique opportunity at this moment to break the unsustainable cycle of the status quo in Israel-Palestine and set the stage for how it will lead. This is not a situation of conflict between two equal actors — Palestinians in Israel, East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza have endured decades of military occupation, systematic discrimination and oppression. The current attacks by both Israel and Hamas on civilians are reprehensible and must both be condemned without justification. What we are seeing on the ground is not new, but worse, particularly given the political leadership vacuum. The Biden administration can use this post-George Floyd moment to shift the conversation to one that protects the rights and human security of both Palestinians and Israelis. Increasingly, members of Congress are also calling on the administration to pay attention and break free from false equivalency. Specific actions must be taken to hold Israel accountable to international law, such as demanding settler expansion cease in East Jerusalem and lifting the Absentee Law, and ensuring the provision of COVID-19 vaccines to populations in the Territories under their occupation. Police brutality against civilians, medics, and journalists in East Jerusalem and across Israel in mixed cities like Lod and Haifa must be condemned. The administration can assert control over how U.S. funds are used in acts of excessive force, particularly towards children. It’s time to lead from a place that respects the dignity and humanity of each person on the ground. That is the only way forward for a long-term, sustainable solution that will ultimately serve U.S. interests.”
Jordan Schermerhorn, Truman Defense Council, Infectious Disease Researcher
“This conflict is being conducted during a pandemic — one where one population is largely vaccinated, and the other is largely not. Airstrikes and evacuations force crowding and unsanitary conditions, both of which are major risk factors for COVID-19 transmission. In a context where the health disparities between Israel and the Gaza Strip cannot be denied, and where civilians are at massively increased risk of contracting infectious diseases in emergency conditions, the administration should take into account this persistent and outsized potential burden upon civilian populations when deciding on paths forward, including considerations of support for potential ceasefire agreements.”
Truman's members offered these comments in their personal capacities. Their comments do not represent all of Truman, nor are they associated with any official role.