December 5, 2023


FILE – President Joe Biden meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. (AP Picture/Susan Walsh, File) AP Picture/Evan Vucci

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s efforts to tamp down tensions within the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas confronted large setbacks even earlier than he departed for the Center East on Tuesday, as Jordan known as off the president’s deliberate summit with Arab leaders after a lethal explosion at a Gaza hospital killed a whole bunch.

Biden now will go to solely Israel and can postpone his journey to Jordan, a White Home official stated as Biden departed.

The postponement of the Amman summit comes after Palestinian chief Mahmoud Abbas withdrew from the scheduled conferences in protest of the assaults, which the Hamas-run Well being Ministry in Gaza blamed on an Israeli airstrike. The Israeli army stated it had no involvement and pinned the blame on a misfired Palestinian rocket.

“This conflict and this aggression are pushing the area to the brink,” Ayman Safadi, Jordan’s international minister, informed al-Mamlaka TV, a state-run community. He stated Jordan would solely host the summit when all members agreed on its function, which might be to “cease the conflict, respect the humanity of the Palestinians, and ship the help they deserve.”

The cancellation displays an more and more unstable scenario that may take a look at the boundaries of American affect within the area as Biden visits Wednesday.

Biden’s determination to place himself in a battle zone — the identical 12 months he made a shock go to to Ukraine — demonstrates his willingness to take private and political dangers as he turns into closely invested in one other intractable international battle with no clear finish recreation and loads of alternative for issues to spiral uncontrolled.

The high-stakes presidential journey is emblematic of Biden’s perception that the US shouldn’t flip again from its central position on the worldwide stage and his religion that non-public diplomacy can play a decisive position.

“That is how Joe Biden believes politics works and historical past is made,” stated Jon Alterman, a senior vp on the Middle for Strategic and Worldwide Research who labored on the Senate International Relations Committee whereas Biden was a member.

There’s been no water, gas or meals delivered to Gaza for the reason that brutal Oct. 7 assault by Hamas that killed greater than 1,400 Israelis and triggered the unfolding conflict. Mediators have been struggling to interrupt a impasse over offering provides to determined civilians, help teams and hospitals.

Because the humanitarian disaster grows, so too does the priority of a spiraling battle that stretches past the borders of Gaza. There have already been skirmishes on Israel’s northern border with Hezbollah, an Iran-backed group that’s based mostly in Southern Lebanon.

“There’s so much that may go mistaken on this journey,” Alterman stated.

Biden’s travels might be rife with safety considerations, and visits by different U.S. officers have been disrupted by rocket launches into Israel. Further Israeli airstrikes in Gaza may additionally immediate extra condemnation at a time when Biden is desiring to reveal solidarity with the US’ closest ally within the area.

The U.S. has subtly shifted its message over the previous week, sustaining full-throated assist for Israel whereas slowly turning up the diplomatic quantity on the necessity for humanitarian help in Gaza, as Biden and aides have heard more and more dire predictions concerning the potential for pictures of struggling Palestinians to ignite protests and broader unrest all through the Center East.

U.S. officers stated it has turn out to be clear that already restricted Arab tolerance of Israel’s army operations would evaporate totally if circumstances in Gaza worsened.

Their evaluation projected that outright condemnation of Israel by Arab leaders wouldn’t solely be a boon to Hamas however would possible encourage Iran to step up its anti-Israel exercise, including to fears {that a} regional conflagration may erupt, in accordance with 4 officers who spoke to The Related Press on situation of anonymity to debate inside administration pondering.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, bouncing backwards and forwards between Arab and Israeli management forward of Biden’s go to, spent seven and a half hours assembly Monday in Tel Aviv in an effort to dealer some sort of help settlement and emerged with a inexperienced gentle to create a plan on how help can enter Gaza and be distributed to civilians.

It was on the floor a modest accomplishment, however U.S. officers confused that it represented a major change in Israel’s place getting in — that Gaza would stay lower off from gas, electrical energy, water and different important provides.

Biden has an extended observe file of exhibiting public assist for Israel whereas expressing considerations privately to the Israelis about their habits.

“He believes the one technique to get contained in the Israelis’ heads is to reveal profound empathy, but in addition to be there,” Alterman stated.

Within the U.S., Biden has gained uncommon reward from Republicans over his management on Israel, however prospects for offering further help are unsure. The administration has stated it might ask for greater than $2 billion in help for each Israel and Ukraine, although Home Republicans stay in disarray.

Nonetheless, Biden is dedicated to each Ukraine and Israel.

“We’re the US of America, for God’s sake, probably the most highly effective nation within the historical past of the world,” he stated this week on CBS’ “60 Minutes” when requested whether or not the wars in Israel and Ukraine have been greater than the U.S. can tackle directly. “We’ve the capability to do that and we now have an obligation to. … And if we don’t, who does?”

In Israel, Biden was anticipated to fulfill with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and different Israeli officers. His plans to then meet in Jordan with King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Palestinian chief Mahmoud Abbas have been scrapped.

The Israel-Palestinian battle has been ongoing for many years, and to a big extent, it’s concerned the identical cadre of males. Netanyahu is the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli historical past. Abbas has been Palestinian president for practically 20 years. Abdullah II has been king since 1999 — Biden has known as the Jordanian king a loyal ally in a “robust neighborhood.” El-Sissi is the latest chief, president since 2014.

It’s essential for these leaders, too, to keep away from a chronic and engulfing regional escalation, notably as Egypt and Jordan face rising financial tumult.

In September, the Worldwide Financial Fund issued a report saying that Egypt and Jordan are among the many nations within the area that “stand on the brink of a debt disaster.” Egypt particularly is fighting excessive inflation.

Neither nation needs to soak up refugees. Jordan already has a big Palestinian inhabitants, and the nation is dealing with a whole bunch of 1000’s of refugees from neighboring Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

With tens of 1000’s of troops massed alongside the Israel-Gaza border, Israel has been anticipated to launch a floor invasion — however plans stay unsure. U.S. officers have refused to say whether or not the Israelis have been holding off to ensure that Biden to go to.

“We’re getting ready for the subsequent levels of conflict,” Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht stated. “We haven’t stated what they are going to be. All people’s speaking a couple of floor offensive. It may be one thing totally different.”

In the meantime, the loss of life toll is mounting even with out the conflict’s subsequent stage. Israeli strikes on Gaza have killed at the least 2,700 folks and wounded greater than 9,700, in accordance with the Gaza Well being Ministry. Almost two-thirds of these killed have been youngsters, a ministry official stated.

One other 1,200 folks throughout Gaza are believed to be buried underneath the rubble, alive or lifeless. Greater than 1 million Palestinians have fled their houses — roughly half of Gaza’s inhabitants — and 60% at the moment are within the roughly 8-mile-long (14-kilometer-long) space south of the evacuation zone, in accordance with the United Nations.

Related Press Writers Josh Boak in Washington, Josef Federman in Jerusalem and Matthew Lee in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.