President Joe Biden’s recent trip to Israel and Jordan was marred by a series of unfolding events that threatened to disrupt his diplomatic mission. The visit, intended to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to Israel and address the escalating conflict in Gaza, encountered setbacks even before it began.
A devastating explosion at a Gaza hospital, resulting in a significant loss of life, ignited controversy and accusations between Israel and Palestinian authorities. Hamas-controlled Gaza claimed it was an Israeli airstrike, while Israel attributed it to a failed missile from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In response, the United States called for an investigation to determine the cause of the explosion.
The turmoil didn’t stop there. Leaders from Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority, blaming Israel for what they labeled an attack, canceled a scheduled summit with President Biden in Amman. Anti-Israel protests erupted in several major cities across the region.
President Biden’s primary objectives for the trip were to underscore the U.S. commitment to Israel in its preparations for a ground incursion to eliminate Hamas from Gaza and to send a warning to Iran and its allies against threats to attack Israel from the north.
Even before the hospital tragedy, the U.S. had been pressuring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to minimize civilian casualties and alleviate the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Israel, in response to attacks initiated by Hamas, had vowed to eradicate the group, resulting in a significant loss of life.
The incident raised concerns about the optics of President Biden’s visit and his repeated assertion of Israel’s right to self-defense. The crisis deepened with fighting along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon involving Hezbollah, and Tehran’s ominous warning of an impending wider conflict.
While the U.S. didn’t plan to deploy troops on the ground in Israel, the risk of escalation and the potential for unintended consequences heightened concerns. The region’s instability threatened to drag multiple parties into a broader conflict. President Biden called the Iraqi Prime Minister to discuss preventing an expansion of the Israel-Hamas conflict, as there were still American citizens in the region and American hostages held by Hamas.
Despite these challenges, the White House aimed to showcase President Biden’s commitment to a crucial ally and his foreign policy experience. Efforts were made to provide aid to Gaza, but challenges remained in ensuring that aid reached its intended recipients and that foreign citizens could leave Gaza safely.
The situation remained complex, with international players carefully navigating a volatile region. President Biden’s visit was expected to convey unwavering support for Israel’s efforts while seeking a path towards de-escalation.
Israel’s confidence in its mission to eliminate Hamas was buoyed by perceived tacit support from some Arab countries, even if publicly undisclosed.
As President Biden navigated this turbulent visit, the Middle East’s fragile stability hung in the balance, with the hope that diplomatic efforts could avert a larger regional conflict.