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Washington should condition US aid to Israel – regardless of what happens in Rafah


Refusing to hold Israel to the same standard as others undermines US objectives in the region and empowers others receiving military aid to act without fear of repercussions.

Within six months, US President Joe Biden went from categorically refusing to condition aid to Israel to threatening to halt certain weapons deliveries should Israel decide to invade Rafah in southern Gaza without a civilian protection plan in place. Just before his public ultimatum, Biden issued an order to pause a shipment of large bombs to Israel to ‘deliver a message’ to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

This change in attitude, while no doubt politically significant, is of no practical consequence to Israel’s warfighting capacity in Gaza. Its significantly weaker foe, Hamas, has lost most of its combat power due to Israeli strikes. Nor is Biden’s reaction likely to lead to a comprehensive review of US aid policy toward Israel or address Israel’s already controversial conduct in its war in Gaza.

It is encouraging that Biden has recognized the repercussions of Israel invading Rafah. But Israel’s war was deeply problematic already. More than 35,000 Palestinians, most of whom are women and children, have already been killed by Israel’s war machine partly because Washington gave Israel carte blanche to conduct its operations essentially however it saw fit.

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