The Biden White House is being forced to confront its first major foreign policy crisis with the week-long violence in Israel and Palestine. The conflict has cost over 230 lives, the vast majority in Palestine.
Biden came into office without any grand plans to reshape the Middle East. His main focus has been on strategic competition with China, rebuilding America’s alliances in Europe and mobilising international action on climate change.
The consensus in Washington is that – with Hamas in power in Gaza and Benjamin Netanyahu struggling to hold on power in Israel – there is next to no hope of achieving meaningful progress towards a two-state solution anytime soon and it would be foolish to waste political capital on the issue.
But presidents do not get to choose which events they must respond to.
During his career as a centrist Democrat in the Senate, Biden was a fierce defender of Israel.
His first overseas trip as a senator was to the country, where he met then-prime minister Golda Meir. He has described it as “one of the most consequential meetings I’ve ever had in my life.”
But during the Obama-Biden years, there was a significant fraying in the US-Israel relationship.