HomePoliticsAt the G7, Biden cannot escape the shadow of the Gaza war

At the G7, Biden cannot escape the shadow of the Gaza war

BARI, Italy — President Joe Biden shared the stage with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine at a seaside resort in Italy and looked forward to talking about a security pact he just signed to provide continued support to Ukraine in its battle with Russia.

After skipping a dinner to attend the ceremonial signing of the pact and answer reporters’ questions, he seemed nervous when, after a few questions about Ukraine, he was asked about a topic that has been less rewarding lately: the war between Israel and Hamas in Israel. the Gaza Strip.

“I wish you guys would play by the rules a little bit,” Biden snapped when asked for an update on the fate of a ceasefire in Gaza that he announced last month but has yet to go public accepted by Israel and Hamas. Biden reiterated the US position that the proposal had been approved by the Israeli government, the United Nations Security Council and the G7, and that the raid was on Hamas.

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“I’m here to talk about a critical situation in Ukraine,” Biden said. “You ask me another subject. I will be happy to answer it in detail later.”

The moment was emblematic of the shadow that American support for Israel’s war in Gaza has cast on Biden’s efforts to restore the United States’ traditional role as defender of democracy and beacon of international law. In the US, Biden was met with protests across the country. And while he has united the world around Ukraine, he has become increasingly isolated in his staunch support of Israel in its war against Hamas.

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In recent weeks, the government has urgently sought an end to the war in Gaza, which began after Hamas carried out an attack on October 7 that killed 1,200 people and took around 250 hostages, Israel says. Health authorities in Gaza say more than 37,000 people have died there so far, and humanitarian aid groups warn hundreds of thousands face famine.

In the weeks before making two back-to-back trips to Europe — the first to France last week to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day — Biden boosted support among European allies by announcing the ceasefire, a trio phase plan leading to a permanent ceasefire and the reconstruction of Gaza, which he said was supported by Israel.

“It is time for this war to end and the next day to begin,” Biden said in a May 31 speech at the White House.

The G7 endorsed the plan in the following days, saying it offered “a credible path to peace, leading to a two-state solution.” In the days before Biden traveled to the summit, the US also sought and received support for the plan from the Security Council – where the US had repeatedly blocked previous motions calling for a ceasefire.

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But by the time he landed in Bari, Italy, for the G7 summit, neither Israel nor Hamas had publicly accepted the deal. And Israel, along with Hamas, faced a new round of accusations of violating international law — one of many that the Biden administration has defended Israel against.

A United Nations commission ruled that both sides were responsible for killing civilians who identified themselves as non-combatants. The report also highlighted the heavy toll the conflict is taking on children, not only the deaths but also the large number of orphans.

On the day the report was released, Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said the US had not read it; Asked for the second time, he referred to a US investigation that found Israel had most likely violated international law, but not enough to stop military aid.

“That is the U.S. position on these issues of international humanitarian law,” Sullivan said. “And I’ll let that speak for itself.”

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But most notably this week, Sullivan released a statement condemning Russia over reports that it had separated Ukrainian children from their families, deported them and put them up for adoption. He called the allegations, which the US found credible, “despicable and abhorrent.”

In their final communiqué, issued on Friday, G7 leaders called on Hamas and Israel to accept the deal drafted by Biden and declared their “unwavering” commitment to a two-state solution.

They also went out of their way to emphasize that both Hamas and Israel must follow international law.

“In exercising its right to defend itself, Israel must fully comply with its obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, in all circumstances,” the statement said. “We condemn Hamas for its continued use of civilian infrastructure for its military activities and its failure to separate and differentiate itself from civilians in Gaza.

“We equally deplore any losses of civilian life, and note with deep concern the unacceptable number of civilian casualties, especially women and children,” the report said, adding that it “called on all parties to take all possible steps to protect the lives of citizens.”

c.2024 The New York Times Company

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