As rockets and bombs flew between Israel and Gaza, Joe Biden’s tactics in handling a major foreign policy crisis drew criticism from both sides of the American political spectrum.
Critics on the right demanded the president voice support for Israel and its right to self-defense. Critics on the left demanded Mr. Biden stand up for the right of Palestinians to live in peace in their own unoccupied territory.
For 11 deadly days, Biden was the focus of fierce condemnation as the violence claimed hundreds of lives, including at least 60 children in Gaza. Thousands of people were displaced and hundreds of buildings were reduced to rubble.
Publicly, the president said little, but when his administration did speak, it did so in measured tones, defying pressure from both the left and right for tough talk or unbending demands for a cease-fire.
Behind the scenes, Biden was drawing on his decades of geopolitical experience and his long-cultivated relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to effect an end to the bloodshed. He did it in his own way.
While Biden and his team were making tempered public statements, the president spent days on the phone with Netanyahu, gradually ratcheting up the pressure. What did Israel aim to accomplish with the bombings? At what point could Israel say those objectives had been met and, therefore, agree to a cease-fire?
Combined with pressure from other international players – including Egypt, which brokered the cease-fire deal – Biden’s strategy quietly paid off. This tactic of resisting calls for fiery public rhetoric while quietly leveraging personal relationships to push an ally toward the desired outcome behind the scenes has served well both the world and American foreign policy. It can be a step toward reestablishing the United States as a reliable broker for peace rather than an unpredictable player on the geopolitical scene.
Achieving lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians will require much more than a cease-fire, but no permanent peace will be brokered in the midst of bombs and rockets flying. A long-term solution has been a challenge that has eluded American presidents of both parties for decades. Biden’s diplomatic tactics in recent weeks have not solved the problem, but they have been successful at helping to move the process in the right direction.
– Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Editorial Board