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Biden must not let Israel fall into Hamas’s trap

Biden with Netanyahu last month. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty

Last weekend’s massacres were clearly designed to provoke “retaliatory Israeli atrocities” in Gaza, says Edward Luce in the FT. And the emotional temptation is to offer “unconditional support” to Benjamin Netanyahu and his government. It is hard to hear stories of slaughtered infants and not “succumb to blind vengefulness”. But the rational response is to “reject the playbook that Hamas wants”. America in particular must hold firm. Any perceived excesses by Israel’s Defence Forces will be laid at Joe Biden’s door. And years of turning a blind eye to Netanyahu’s habit of building new settlements in occupied territories has “humiliated moderate Palestinians” and exposed the US as a “one-sided broker”.

The last time Washington took a stab at two-state negotiations was a “half-hearted effort” by Barack Obama. Donald Trump – feeling a natural affinity to Netanyahu’s hard-right government – simply “played cheerleader” to the Israeli PM’s increasingly open contempt for the two-state process. “Biden has acted as though the Palestinian problem no longer exists.” This wishful thinking has come back to bite him, but Netanyahu’s alliance with the Trumpian wing of US politics does give Biden more space than his predecessors to play the role of honest broker. His first priority will be the release of US hostages, but his overriding goal must be to “break the cycle of escalating violence”. Netanyahu has deprived Palestinians of “hope for the future and peaceful outlets to express their frustrations”. And as Biden’s hero John F Kennedy said: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.” Pulling the Israelis back from “writing an even darker chapter in their history” is the most pro-Israel thing he could do.