Just over a month ago, President Biden announced the United States would begin airdropping food aid into Gaza. Normally reserved for troops surrounded by enemy forces or people victimized by natural disasters, the shift in American policy towards airdropping aid is emblematic of Biden’s failed attempts to placate critics in his base while maintaining his deep deference to Israel. The United States, under Biden, is incapable of dictating military policy to a country that receives more than 3.5 billion dollars a year of its military aid.

Far from the “friends among nations” narrative advanced by many American institutions, the closeness between America and Israel is born of a complex web of shared military interests (hatred of Iran) and a shared love of American military contractors. Essential as well is the hope that, by providing vast sums of aid, America can curb Israel’s less desirable impulses, a strategy that Biden has recently termed the “bear hug.”

This has created a political environment that elevates politicians eager to fall over themselves in their support for Israel. Palestinians have had almost zero institutional leverage or say in American politics, so they are made a nonentity. Over time, as American politicians have competed to show who can be the most deferential to Israeli governmental whims, and as the young state has continued to enjoy unconditional aid, the Israeli political establishment has grown increasingly more demanding and unaware of how precarious their situation is. Far from reining in Israeli military policy, this unconditional aid has empowered a small regional power to drift further and further from international accountability. 

This arrogance isn’t new. For example, during the Obama administration, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu erupted at then-Secretary of State John Kerry for telling the former that he needed to acknowledge how settlements were hurting a potential peace process, shouting, “no one understands Israel but Israel.” This outburst was directed towards the head diplomat of a country Israel was expecting to receive billions in aid from, in response to that diplomat asking for some basic acknowledgment of the settlements exacerbating hostilities.

For the most part, this defiance has remained a somewhat minor concern for American officials. Lobbying checks meant more than diplomatic thank you from Israeli officials ever could. This blissful ignorance has soured since the start of Israel’s war in Gaza.

As this new stage of the conflict rolls on, Israel continues to show a deep disinterest in international law or norms, bolstered by the knowledge that their primary backer is led by a man who describes his support for Israel as “unwavering.” Israel has openly used starvation as a weapon of war (which is against international law), with protestors blocking key aid trucks and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant stating at the beginning of the conflict, “There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed. We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly.” When an aid convoy arrived in February, Israeli soldiers murdered more than 100 seeking aid and blamed it on a crowd crush. Biden’s choice to airdrop aid into Gaza, far more expensive and limited than entering through Israeli territory, is an admission of his unwillingness or inability to place even basic constraints on a supposed ally.

The Israeli military has recently received flack from the American press for drone striking seven aid workers from World Central Kitchen, just a fraction of the more than 200 aid workers killed by Israel since the start of the conflict, not to mention the more than 100 journalists killed by Israel, which confidently accuses many of them of being terrorists after the fact.

All of this is not to mention Israel’s continued defiance of UN oversight, before and after Oct. 7. Israeli officials have consistently condemned even weakly worded resolutions that affirm the illegality of settlements. They’ve also consistently prevented the Special Rapporteur, a UN official tasked with maintaining the rights of Palestinians, from entering Israel or the occupied territories they are supposed to be monitoring.

Now, as Iran gears up for retaliation after Israel bombed several of their officials in their embassy in Damascus, Syria, and Israel threatens an incursion into Lebanon, the world faces a real risk of wider regional conflict. This is where international institutions are supposed to matter. It would be the appropriate time for the US to put its foot down and stop Israel from blowing up the entire Middle East. 

Now is the time for America to take a strong stance and stop financing a regime that doesn’t want to follow the rules, before those rules lose all meaning.

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