Israel’s air strikes on the militant Hamas movement in Gaza have forced the Middle East on to Joe Biden’s agenda amid new questions about how his emphasis on human rights applies to Palestinians.
It has also laid bare the extent to which the Israeli right has been empowered in occupied East Jerusalem during the presidency of Donald Trump. Unrest there sparked wider battles, and could draw the Biden administration more deeply into the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict even after this latest seismic eruption abates.
That’s a prospect President Biden and his senior advisers would like to avoid.
They’ve made clear their diplomatic priorities lie elsewhere. Until now they’ve adopted a low-key minimalist approach in this graveyard of American-led peace initiatives, quietly trying to restore some elements of US policy upended by the Trump administration’s unabashedly pro-Israel stance.
That has meant concentrating on repairing ruptured relations with the Palestinians, and voicing rhetorical support for a viable Palestinian state as key to a lasting peace with Israel.