US President Joe Biden’s quick trip to the Middle East was supposed to see him meet Israeli and Arab leaders to mitigate and contain the violence that has erupted since the October 7 Hamas attack. However, Biden only met Israeli officials after Jordan scrapped a four-way summit between its king, Biden and the leaders of Egypt and Palestine.
Some US diplomats and officials were left fuming after Biden was seen as worsening the crisis and giving Israel the green light to further inflict heavy civilian losses on Palestinians as part of its military campaign against Hamas.
One senior State Department official resigned in protest earlier this week, while more officials from the Biden administration are preparing to follow suit, according to sources, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity. They said the way a section of Biden administration officials showed their enthusiasm for Israel and did not consider innocent Palestinians had frustrated many who are now ready to step down from their posts.
Several Arab Americans are serving in the Biden administration and they, too, have voiced their disappointment with the approach being adopted, sources told Al Arabiya English.
Senior officials in the Biden administration have had sit-downs with colleagues in recent days to discuss the administration’s positions. Next year’s US presidential election appears to have been the overarching theme of how and why Biden has come to make his decisions.
The Huffington Post first reported about a “dissent cable” drafted by current US diplomats and career service officers, criticizing the US stance on Israel for being too one-sided.
Diplomats told Al Arabiya English that Israeli lives were being considered “more important” than Arab lives when the policy decisions were being made. The US veto against the UN resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza further motivated some Biden administration officials to consider quitting their roles in the government.
But those defending Biden’s approach say his staunch support for Israel will allow him to have more influence in their decision-making regarding a potential invasion of Gaza. Biden has also been a longtime supporter of Israel, dating back to his days as a US senator.
“You don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist,” Biden said from Israel earlier this week after meeting the families of the victims of the Hamas attack.
No limitations on Israeli response
The State Department sent an internal email to a small group of officials in the days following the attack, ordering them to refrain from using phrases such as “de-escalation,” “ceasefire,” or “restoring calm.”
On the night of the attack, a post on the US Office of Palestinian Affairs was deleted for urging “all sides to refrain from violence and retaliatory attacks.”
Asked why the post was deleted, a State Department said: “The tweets that remain posted on the X platform are the ones that accurately reflect US policy. The United States condemns the terrorist attack against Israel and unequivocally supports Israel’s right to defend itself, as the President and Secretary have both made clear.”
On October 8, Blinken spoke to his Turkish counterpart and said he encouraged Ankara’s “advocacy for a ceasefire.” The post on X, which referenced the ceasefire, was also quickly deleted.
In addition to internal strife, Washington’s longtime allies in the Middle East, including Jordan and Egypt, shunned the US president following the blast at Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza. Arab states have condemned and blamed Israel, while the US said it had intelligence to support Israeli claims that it was due to an errant rocket from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and other Gulf and Arab countries have all slammed Israel for its continued targeting of civilians. Reuters cited senior diplomats from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East voicing their disappointment with the US veto at the UN.
“They lost credibility with the veto. What is good enough for Ukraine is not good enough for Palestine. The veto told us that Ukrainian lives are more valuable than Palestinian ones,” an African diplomat was quoted as saying.
A senior Arab diplomat reportedly said the “double standard” was unjust and made the world more dangerous. “We cannot choose to call on the UN Charter’s principles to protect Ukraine and ignore it for Palestine,” the unnamed diplomat told Reuters.
Josh Paul, the US State Department official who stepped down this week, said he was leaving because of the “continued – indeed, expanded and expedited – provision of lethal arms to Israel.”
Paul was the director of congressional and public affairs at the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs and joined the PM office 11 years ago.
“Let me be clear: Hamas’ attack on Israel was not just a monstrosity; it was a monstrosity of monstrosities,” Paul said in his resignation letter, which was posted on his LinkedIn page.
He also voiced his belief that the potential for escalation by Iran or groups it backs, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, would be a cynical exploitation of the existing tragedy. Paul said the Israeli response and US support for it would only lead to more suffering for both Israelis and Palestinians.
“This Administration’s response – and much of the Congress’ as well – is an impulsive reaction built on confirmation bias, political convenience, intellectual bankruptcy, and bureaucratic inertia. That is to say, it is immensely disappointing and entirely unsurprising,” Paul said.
State Department Spokesman Matt Miller addressed Paul’s resignation, saying the Department appreciates the different political and personal beliefs about what US policy should be.
Asked if Paul’s criticism was correct, Miller said: “But I will say, with respect to this – the specific criticism that has been aired, we have made very clear that we strongly support Israel’s right to defend itself.”
Miller added: “We think they have a right – not only a right but an obligation – to defend themselves against these terrorist attacks; I think any country would do that.”
The disappointment among some at the State Department and within the Biden administration over the staunch support for Israel sharply contrasts the irritation Al Arabiya English previously reported on about the frustration over Biden’s Iran policy. At the time, some diplomats saw the Iran policy as too lenient, leading multiple officials to leave the Iran team previously led by Rob Malley. Malley has since been suspended, and his security clearance was revoked pending an FBI and State Department investigation into matters that the State Department refuses to disclose.
Two special envoys for the Horn of Africa also stepped down, reportedly due to frustration with the top US diplomat for Africa at the State Department.