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Has Biden launched ‘mission impossible’ during his visit to Israel in the thick of war?

'Biden wants to reap electoral capital in the US by backing Israel'

With the bombing of the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza that has left hundreds killed, women and children mostly, US President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel has become a difficult balancing act — of backing Israel without losing key allies, especially Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

The hospital was that was hit was housing thousands of patients and other civilians seeking shelter from the non-stop bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

The Gaza health ministry claimed that that the hospital was hit by an Israeli air strike, killing at least 500 people. However, Israel denied responsibility saying it had evidence that an Islamic Jihad rocket that malfunctioned was responsible for the attack.

A UN-run school housing refugees was also hit as Israeli air raids continued to hit Gaza on Wednesday. Casualties are reported from there as well.

The hospital attack has added to Biden’s diplomatic woes. Jordan, which was also supposed to host Biden for a summit with the country’s King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, have called off the meeting.

Biden said, in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, which he was “outraged and deeply saddened” by the attack on Al-Ahdi Arab Hospital, but did not criticise Israel.

The CNN in a comment on Biden’s visit to Tel Aviv said that: “While the trip will amount to a dramatic show of support for Israel as it prepares the latest stage of its response to last week’s Hamas attacks, it will also act as Biden’s strongest push for easing the suffering of civilians and allowing those who want to leave Gaza out.” It soon added that “that mission got more complicated after an explosion at Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza City killed hundreds.”

Biden’s push for descent in the escalation of the Israel-Hamas war, according to CNN, was also due to the White House’s concern for scores of Americans trapped in Gaza.

Till Tuesday, most commentators were hopeful that Biden’s visit would convince Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to negotiate dialogue for release of hostages from Hamas’ custody and opening of humanitarian corridor for Gazans. And resultantly, the possibility for further assault on Gaza could be averted too. But, the scene has changed with the Al-Ahli hospital carnage.

Dr Omair Anas, research director of the Centre for West Asia Dialogue, told India Narrative that President Biden is on a US poll mission to convince Israelis to halt the offensive in Gaza. “See, his rival Donald Trump has tried to project himself as the most ardent backer of Israel, and he is. But President Biden during his presidency had an acrimonious relationship with the Israel President. Now, he wants to make amends by backing Israel so that he can reap electoral capital in the US,” said Anas.

In view of the tightrope that he is walking, Biden has to achieve three objectives. First, domestic pressure and tradition is driving him to take a pro-Israel position. But, simulaneously, he cannot override the red lines imposed by Egypt and Jordan — of preventing outflow of refugees from Gaza into their territory. In trying to achieve a difficult balance, the US President may press Israel to open designated locations in Gaza, where humanitarian supplies can aggregate and keep them only insulated from Israeli air strikes. Whether this can be achieved on the ground when emotions are reaching fever pitch is hard to predict.