Biden’s super-fuzzy Gaza plan

Helena Cobban
6 min readJun 1, 2024


It is certainly a welcome development that the President of the United States is now- at last- openly on the record calling for a “durable end” to the current “conflict” in Gaza. Much of the context behind Biden’s latest initiative is crystal clear. Just download, if you have a minute, the infographic ( PDF) that UN-OCHA posted yesterday about the casualties of Israel’s genocidal assault on the Strip, and scroll through its highlights (lowlights.) They represent unspeakable levels of human misery that have been quite deliberately inflicted on Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians, by Israel, and with the full permission until now of the “indispensable nation” that is its ally, the United States of America.

As I often do, I have made a quick review of the “truckloads of aid” portion of the UN-OCHA chart (in the banner image above.) And here you can see a detail from that.

UN-OCHA does keep changing the format of those charts- not least because this crisis keeps going on and on and on, which does present formatting challenges….

What you can see there is the effect on aid deliveries of the assault on Rafah that the Israeli military launched on around May 6–7. Prior to that assault, the number of aid trucks that the Israeli prison guards allowed into Gaza each day averaged 213 trucks/day (compared with 500 trucks/day that they allowed into Gaza prior to October 7.)

Since May 7, the average number of trucks they have allowed into Gaza each day has averaged no more than 60, with none of those entering via the Rafah crossing and very few via Kerem Shalom. (And let’s not even speak of the debacle of the American “floating pier”, which was never a serious proposition, anyway…)

So anyway, that still-escalating humanitarian challenge is one vital piece of the context for Biden’s latest speech. Other pieces of context doubtless relate to:

  • his need to try to regain support from young voters and voters of color, many of whom have have been deeply disillusioned by the “ironclad” support he has given to Israel until now;
  • the continuing growth and creativity of the grassroots pro-ceasefire, anti-occupation movement in this country and worldwide, and the slow but continuing growth of its heft in significant political fora;
  • awareness of the growing erosion/isolation that the U.S. “brand” has been suffering in key international fora as a result of its slave-ish support for a genocidal and out-of-control Israeli government; and
  • some serious signs of discord over his policy rising ever higher and higher within the ranks of his own officials, including through resignations.

… But now, let’s look quickly at the content of his proposal and also, crucially, the modalities within which he has presented it thus far.

The Washington Post’s smart journalist/commentator Karen DeYoung put this significant quote into her report:

“This deal to stop the war is nearly identical to Hamas, its own proposals, of only a few weeks ago,” said a senior Biden administration official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

True enough! Indeed, ever since the end of last year, Hamas has been putting forth a proposal very similar to this one that Biden is now presenting… And Biden is now presenting it in public as an Israeli proposal.

Go figure.

Indeed, very speedily after Biden had voiced “his” proposal to reporters in the White House, Hamas’s Telegram channel responded by noting this:

The Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) positively views what was included in the speech of US President Joe Biden today — 31–5–2024 — for his call to a permanent ceasefire, the Israeli forces’ withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the reconstruction of Gaza, and the exchange of prisoners.

We consider this US position and what was established of conviction on the regional and international stage on the necessity to put an end to the war on Gaza are the result of the legendary steadfastness of our people and their valiant resistance.

Hamas confirms its readiness to deal positively and in a constructive manner with any proposal that is based on the permanent ceasefire and the full withdrawal [of Israeli forces] from the Gaza Strip, the reconstruction [of Gaza], and the return of the displaced to their places, along with the fulfillment of a genuine prisoner swap deal if the occupation clearly announces commitment to such deal.

Meantime, of course Israel had entered its Sabbath, so we have heard no definitive comment at all, yet, from PM Netanyahu or his ministers- though Biden was clear in presenting this proposal “as an Israeli one.”

Previous pronouncements from Netanyahu and members of his war cabinet were clear that they disagreed with the judgment on which Biden had based his plan, namely that the Hamas military had been “sufficiently” defanged to ensure it would not launch another October 7 operation. Netanyahu and his colleagues have all been quite explicit in calling, by contrast, for the total “destruction” of Hamas — whatever that might mean in practice.

A few other political dimensions of this diplomacy are very clear:

  • Netanyahu and a good portion of his military leaders clearly fear that once the fighting ends they will be called to account by the Israeli public public for their many failures that led up to the October 7 breakout… and therefore their interest lies in continuing the war as long as possible.
  • Israel’s political leadership is anyway deeply divided. It is true that there are zero powerful “peace forces” anywhere in sight in Israel, with the only choices at the leadership level being between “more rabidly genocidal” and “only slightly less rabidly so.” But within Israeli politics, those rifts can be deep and brutal.
  • Biden may be hoping to use his May 31 proposal as a way to either “box Netanyahu in” to agreeing to go along with it, or to threaten to use it to topple him in favor of Israeli pols more favored in the White House, like Benny Gantz. If so, good luck with that. Two can play at that game…
  • In which context, the fact that the Democratic Party leaders of both the House and Senate have gone along with the Republican leaders of both houses in inviting Netanyahu to come and address a joint session of Congress sometime within the next two months is extremely discouraging.
  • And anyway, the idea that an American president would make a public declaration about the content of discreet, very important negotiations, on his own account, feels very inappropriate for any leader who seeks to be the effective mediator of a thorny international crisis- regardless of whether he (quite wrongly) attributes this plan to the leader of one of the contending parties, or not. This is absolutely not the way a serious mediator would work! It indicates strongly to me that Biden’s whole declaration was made for show, for external political purposes, much more than as a serious contribution to getting this carnage ended.

I do reiterate that Biden giving any serious indication at all that he wants to see this genocide ended quickly is a very welcome step in the right direction. But now we need to see if he will follow up the “declaration” he uttered yesterday with any of the

concrete political-military steps that are required to rein the Israeli government in. I am not holding my breath…

Originally published at on June 1, 2024.



Helena Cobban

Veteran analyst of global affairs, w/ some focus on West Asia. Pres., Just World Educational. Writes at