Multipolar World

‘Unwavering support’ for Israel and erosion of soft power

Jorge Costa Oliveira

Despite Biden making balanced statements in defense of the two-state solution for Palestine, he offered Israel “unwavering support.” The Jewish lobby in the U.S. is strong. However, this “unwavering support” will come at an internal political cost.

Young liberal Americans, many of whom voted for him, have been particularly vocal in their support for the Palestinians and, above all, demand that their president pressure the Israeli government to put an end to the repeated bombardments on Gaza. And the rapidly growing American Muslim population, set to surpass the Jewish population within two-three decades, should not be overlooked. But it’s on the international stage where this “unwavering support” will have the most consequences.

After an initial reaction in many countries of sympathy and solidarity towards Israel for the barbaric incursion of the terrorist group Hamas into southern Israel, the Israeli response of indiscriminate bombing of Gaza City, with the death of thousands of civilians, prompted an international reaction condemning the Israeli authorities. It’s clear today that the radical ultranationalists leading the Israeli government are trying to exploit the Hamas incursion to “cleanse” the Gaza Strip and, along the way, further catalyze Jewish settlements and subdue the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

During the Trump presidency, the U.S. experienced a significant erosion of its soft power. Trump’s narrow-minded view concerning relations with U.S. allied countries, the withdrawal from global agreements like the Paris Climate Agreement, and lack of support for the WHO at a crucial time in the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic are some of the most evident reasons for this rapid erosion. Moreover, as J. Nye aptly pointed out, “Trump was the first president that did not place a high emphasis on values.”

When America emphasized values, it made the nation more attractive to [the international] society, hence [its] soft power was unrivalled.” With President Biden, America’s global image improved significantly. He reiterated multilateralism, uphold the values of democracy and freedom as pillars of the U.S. position in the world, and strengthened international cooperation, especially with the West+. Furthermore, the appeal of American culture and civil society has kept its soft power high.

However, as J. Nye also wrote, “domestic or foreign policies that appear hypocritical, arrogant, indifferent to others’ views, or based on a narrow conception of national interest can undermine soft power.” As happened after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Biden seems to have realized he risks the same outcome if Israel crosses red lines, specifically red lines for much of the international community. But when it came to the crunch, the U.S. deployed the hard power of two naval squadrons and executed the “unwavering support” for Israel.

The American superpower, which once nurtured the illusion that the post-USSR era would lead to the “end of History” and a consequent eternal global Pax Americana, seems to fail to understand that its ability for positive attraction and persuasion to achieve foreign policy objectives is eroding with this “unwavering support.”

The EU, possessing excellent soft power but weak hard power, should realize this and dissociate itself, taking a firm stance in defense of International Law.

Categories Multipolar World Opinion