What kind of leverage does Biden really have with Bibi?

What kind of leverage does Biden really have with Bibi?

The bloody conflict between Israel and Hamas is now in its second week. Hamas militants are firing rockets at major population centers in Israel, while the Israeli military continues to pound the densely-populated Gaza Strip with artillery and missiles. More than 200 Palestinians are dead and at least 10 Israelis have been killed.

Given the lopsided death toll and the humanitarian impact of the fighting in the Gaza Strip, critics of Israel's campaign have called on the US, Israel's closest ally, to do more to stop the violence.

Until Monday evening, the Biden administration had pointedly avoided calling publicly for a ceasefire, allowing more time for Israel to respond to the ongoing Hamas rocket attacks, but also deepening the humanitarian impact on the people of Gaza.

Why didn't the US intervene before the death toll mounted? And what kind of leverage does Washington, in practice, have over the situation?

A few things to consider.

Powerful as the US is, Biden probably can't just pick up the phone and order the Israelis to stop targeting Gaza. If he did, Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu would almost certainly ignore him. Yes, the rightwing Netanyahu is ultra-hawkish when it comes to the Palestinians, but it's hard to imagine any Israeli prime minister, even from the left, calling off a strong military response in Gaza while rockets are raining down on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Even Merav Michaeli, leader of the leftwing Labor party, hasn't opposed the military campaign itself.

In fact, so far no major Jewish Israeli political leaders, from left or right, have done so. While Jewish Israelis may differ sharply on other aspects of the conflict such as settlements policy or the best path to a two-state solution, on this there is mostly broad consensus. A recent poll showed that 72 percent of Israelis oppose a ceasefire at the moment. That's a wall of support that even a phone call from the US president would be unlikely to crack.

What about holding back arms sales or military aid? The US supplies $3.8 billion in military aid to Israel annually, as part of a decade-long agreement reached in 2016 under the Obama administration. Washington is also Israel's main arms dealer, and in principle, these are powerful tools that Biden could use to influence Israeli behavior. But there are several major caveats.

First, President Biden himself is historically reluctant to use that lever of power: "I have been on record from very early on opposed to the [illegal Israeli] settlements [in the West Bank]," he told reporters in 2019, "but the idea that we would draw military assistance from Israel on the condition that they change a specific policy I find to be absolutely outrageous."

Second, even if — like his one-time presidential rival Bernie Sanders — Biden did want to put that aid in play, oversight of these appropriations lies chiefly with the US Congress rather than with the White House. And in Congress, despite rising concerns from some Democrats about the human rights and humanitarian impact of Israel's Gaza campaign, there's still a bipartisan consensus against using military aid as a tool of influence over Israel.

Last month, more than three-quarters of House representatives signed a letter saying as much. And on Tuesday, the Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), agreed to drop a recent call to review a $735 million shipment of precision guided bombs to Israel. The sale had been approved by the White House before the current violence began.

What are Washington's other points of leverage? The US holds a UN Security Council veto which it has often used to shield Israel from condemnation by the international community. This is a powerful instrument and one that matters for Israel, which is keen to avoid broader international isolation. Over the past week, the US has in fact blocked three UNSC resolutions calling for ceasefires, because the texts did not mention the Hamas rocket attacks as part of the problem.

So… will there be a ceasefire? Observers expect some movement by the end of this week now that the US has explicitly supported one. Both Hamas and Israel are looking to get their last licks in while Egypt leads the effort to broker a halt to the fighting.

But at this point, what pauses the violence may have less to do with US pressure and more to do with the calculations of Israel and Hamas themselves.

UPDATE: Includes polling numbers on Israeli support/opposition to cease-fire in 7th paragraph. 05/20/21

Okuafo Pa means good farmer in the Twi language of West Africa. Hence, the naming of the project reflects the value of good farming and the rewards it brings to the people of Ghana. The Okuafo Pa Project will support Ghana's sustainable development by promoting socio-economic growth and sustainable business models.

Watch to learn how Eni is helping youth to develop agricultural knowledge and skills.

Iranians head to the polls on Friday to vote for president, and it appears a foregone conclusion that hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, the nation's top judge, will win.

Outsiders, and many Iranians, roll their eyes at the predictability of this vote. Iran's Guardian Council, a dozen clerics and judges who answer only to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has cleared the field for Raisi by ruling all of his credible challengers ineligible. The fix is in, and Iranians are now preparing for a moment when anti-reform conservatives, those who oppose social change inside Iran and deeper engagement with the West, will for the first time ever control the country's presidency, parliament, courts, and much of the media.

But simmering beneath the cynicism and predictability of this event is a deepening anxiety over Iran's future as it enters a potentially momentous period in the Islamic Republic's 42-year history. The Supreme Leader, in power for 32 years, is now 82 years old. Very few people know the true state of his health. Even if he outlives Raisi's presidency, which could last four or eight years, preparations for a historic, uncertain, and potentially dangerous leadership transition will intensify soon.

More Show less

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent policy developments:

With the Supreme Court's recent decision, is the Affordable Care Act here to stay?

Yes, this was the Court's third ruling on the Affordable Care Act upholding its constitutionality. This challenge was brought by Republican attorneys general who argued that the repeal of the individual mandate tax undermined the court's previous justification for allowing the law to stand. They were unsuccessful, yet again. And the political salience of the Affordable Care Act has really diminished in the last several years, with Republicans moving on to fight other issues and the Court signaling very strongly they don't want to get involved in overturning this piece of legislation. The Affordable Care Act will be here at least until Congress wants to legislate on it again.

More Show less

Iranians head to the polls on June 18, in what's widely perceived to be a foregone outcome. Analysts predict that popular disillusionment with Iran's political class will make this one of the lowest turnout elections in Iran's post-revolution history. According to one poll taken by the Iranian Students Polling Agency, as few as 42 percent of the eligible voting population is expected to show up. We take a look at contemporary Iran's demographics, and how this year's vote turnout might compare to previous elections.

Latin America needs vaccines: The World Health Organization has called on the G7 countries that pledged to donate a billion COVID vaccine doses to the developing world to prioritize Latin America, with WHO officials pointing to the fact that out of the top 10 countries with the highest COVID death tolls per capita over the past week, nine are in Latin America, where many health systems are overstretched and vaccines are scarce. This call comes as Latin America's COVID death toll has surpassed 1 million. Cases and deaths are soaring in Argentina and Colombia, for instance, while Brazil has fully vaccinated just 11 percent of its population despite recording the world's second highest death toll. Even Chile, which has carried out Latin America's most successful vaccination campaign to date, has been forced to delay reopening due to a recent surge in infections among unvaccinated younger people. The WHO says prioritizing the region for vaccine donations makes sense in order to stop large sustained outbreaks that may spur potentially more infectious COVID variants that'll cross borders and wreak havoc in populous states. Most of the donated shots will be distributed through the COVAX facility, which is a problem for countries like Venezuela, shut out from COVAX because of payment problems.

More Show less

3: China has launched three astronauts into orbit in its first space mission since 2016. The astronauts will spend three months aboard the country's new space station, demonstrating China's resolve to become a space power following successful earlier missions to collect soil samples on the Moon and land a wheeled robot on Mars.

More Show less

In 2019, Ethiopia's fresh Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accepted a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in brokering a peace treaty with neighbor and longtime foe Eritrea. At the time, Abiy was hailed by the Western media as a reformist who was steering Ethiopia, long dominated by ethnic strife and dictatorial rule, into a new democratic era.

But barely two years later, Abiy stands accused of overseeing a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the northern Tigray region, putting the country on the brink of civil war.

It's against this backdrop that Ethiopians will head to the polls on June 21 for a parliamentary election now regarded as a referendum on Abiy's leadership. But will the vote be free and fair, and will the outcome actually reflect the will of the people? Most analysts say the answer is a resounding "no" on both fronts.

More Show less

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Cyber issues took center stage at the G7 summit. Is there a consensus among world leaders on how to handle cyberweapons?

Well, depending on who is included, there is a growing consensus that the escalations of conflict in cyberspace must stop. And G7 leaders that are now all representing democracies did call on Russia to hold perpetrators of cybercrime that operate from within its borders to account. So, I guess hope dies last because laws in Russia prevents the extradition of suspects to the US, even if Vladimir Putin answered positively when Joe Biden asked for cooperation on that front. And when it comes to limiting the spread of tools that are used for hacking, surveillance and infiltration, the EU has just moved ahead and adopted new dual use regulations which reflect the concerns for human rights violations when journalists are targeted the way that Jamal Khashoggi was. So ending the proliferation of systems that are used to attack would be an urgent but also obvious step for democratic nations to agree on.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZERO World Podcast


Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZERO World Podcast


Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal