Biden’s Gaza gamble: Diplomatic master stroke or desperate politics?

If it works, then this will be a smart and cunning diplomatic move.

If it doesn’t then President Joe Biden will look foolish.

He knows the huge risk of once again being taken for a ride by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Few knew that he was due to make this announcement.

It was mid-morning when White House staff revealed that the president would “deliver remarks” about the Middle East from the State Dining Room.

Until that point, it had been expected that he might speak about the Trump verdict.

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Biden makes surprise announcement

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Speculation then shifted to whether the remarks would be about Rafah – the Israeli attack at the weekend and their troops in the centre of Rafah City – all a neat two fingers to Mr Biden’s calls for restraint.

Netanyahu says 'a reward for terrorism will not bring peace'
Pic: Netstorage

When the president emerged, he spoke first about the Trump trial – a moment for America that he couldn’t ignore.

“The American principle that no one is above the law was reaffirmed,” he said.

Then he pivoted to his news, the Middle East, an altogether bigger issue than the criminal antics of a former president.

Intentionally, no doubt, he was able in one speech to show statesmanship on global issues while Donald Trump was absorbing his own status as an outlaw. Clever.

Then the meat of his Middle East announcement.

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Mr Biden urged leaders on both sides not to

“It’s time for this war to end and for the day after to begin,” he said. They are the 14 words he wants to be remembered.

They are, Mr Biden said, a “comprehensive new proposal… a roadmap” on the table that Israel had agreed.

He was framing it all like it was an Israeli proposal.

But don’t be fooled. Mr Netanyahu would hardly let Mr Biden announce it if it was.

Initial chatter from Israel was that they’d been blind sided.

It was beginning to become clear that the White House was making a play.

President Biden has drawn red lines in this war which have been trampled on.

Now had come the moment when he was drawing a different line – a line under the war. Enough, he was saying – it’s time for it to be over.

He spelt out why now was the moment. Hamas, he said, had been degraded to such an extent that it could no longer repeat a 7 October type attack.

He claimed Israel had agreed to the plan but didn’t spell out who precisely within the divided Israeli war cabinet had done so.

Hamas was certainly blind sided. They knew a low-level new proposal was on the table but not that the American President was going to announce it from the White House.

The announcement was not briefed out to us as these things often are. It was kept a secret until the last moment.

Even European allies were taken by surprise. Britain and others knew that a new proposal of sorts was on the table and that Mr Biden would want to seize the moment, but only when a hostage deal had actually been worked through.

Sources have told us that Foreign Secretary David Cameron was only informed of the content of the president’s speech by secretary of state Antony Blinken at a NATO meeting this morning.

A “phased deal”, the “release of hostages for prisoners”, the “withdrawal of Israeli forces” – if it all sounds familiar, it’s because it is. We have been here before, so many times.

The difference this time is that it comes with such a public kickstart from the White House.

A frustrated president is short-circuiting a process to reassert control. Remember that Gaza is damaging him politically in America as the death toll has continued to rise.

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My sense is that he is calling both sides bluff, trying to make it impossible for them to reject the deal.

Never before in this long war has President Biden expressed his support for the end of the war in such terms.

Remember, he is an ardent supporter of Israel and Zionism. Until today, he had not believed the war should end.

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Footage shows a huge number of Gazans leaving Rafah with as many personal belongings as they can carry.

But his patience has run out. At times in his 15-minute speech, he appeared to be circumnavigating Mr Netanyahu altogether.

“And I want to level with you today as to where we are and what might be possible. But I need your help. Everyone who wants peace now must raise their voices and let the leaders know they should take this deal,” he said.

Suddenly he was speaking the words of so many – the US campus protesters, many European and Middle Eastern leaders, and of course Americans whose votes he needs in November.

It’s a gamble but with so many unknowns, but it’s the biggest chance yet to bring an end to the horror in Gaza.

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