Israel-Gaza: ‘No Boots on the Ground’

10 March 2024

Israel-Gaza: ‘No Boots on the Ground’

By Gwynne Dyer

Good news! The US logistical support ship General Frank S. Besson Junior has just sailed from Norfolk, Virginia carrying the equipment needed to build a temporary pier off the coast of Gaza. That will enable the US to deliver food to the starving (yes, literally starving) Palestinian population of the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip

Once President Joe Biden finally decides to do something, it happens fast. Only three days after the White House’s announcement the General Frank etc. was at sea, and in only fifteen more days (at an average speed of 16 knots) it will reach the Gaza coast.

Then it’s only a question of time until the floating pier is in place, because the US Navy is very good at this sort of thing. The Pentagon says sixty days max, so with luck the surviving children of northern Gaza should be tucking into scrumptious American hamburgers by mid-May.

This is, of course, a far better solution to the problem of starving Palestinians than the current US practice of air-dropping meal packets to them. A total of 112,896 meals in the past week divided up among several million Palestinians doesn’t go very far, and when the parachutes don’t open the heavy pallets tend to squash unwary Palestinians.

When White House officials announced this brilliant plan to build what will probably be called the Pier of Hope, there was only one possible hitch. They were very clear that under no circumstances would there be any American “boots on the ground”. So how will the American Seabees (naval Construction Battalions) connect that pier to the shore?

Speculate no further; a solution is at hand. They will not dangle Seabees from hovering helicopters to put the final few metres of the roadway in place. Neither will they build a sort of reverse drawbridge that they can lower from the pier onto the beach. That would be ridiculous.

Promises must be kept, but all the White House said was that there would no American “boots” on the ground. The Seabees will finish the job themselves, but they will do it either barefoot or in stocking feet. Or in ballet slippers, if that’s their preference.

Forgive the sarcasm, but this cruel farce has nothing whatever to do with saving Palestinian children from starving to death under the Israeli siege. It’s about saving face in Washington, where a wave of sympathy among potential pro-Biden voters for hungry, helpless Palestinian civilians is breaking on the rocks of Joe Biden’s lifelong love for Israel.

There is no need for piers, ships or aircraft to get food into the Gaza Strip. There are lots of roads available, most of them a bit cluttered with debris at the moment but the Israelis have lots of bulldozers. If they wanted the Palestinians to have food, then the Palestinians would have food.

More to the point, if Joe Biden really wanted the Palestinians to have food, he would order the Israelis to let them have it or face losing American support with arms, money and the regular loan of the US veto at the UN Security Council. But he can’t bring himself to do that, no matter what Israel does.

In late January, before the International Court of Justice agreed to consider genocide charges against Israel, an average of 147 trucks a day were delivering food into the Gaza Strip. That’s only a third of the peacetime amount, but it was enough to feed two and a half million people at bare survival level.

Nothing else has changed, but since the Court’s ruling food deliveries to Gaza have collapsed: only 57 trucks went in between 9 and 21 February. Why did Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu order that cut? It could just be anger at the Court’s decision – or it could be a strategy for driving Palestinians out of the Strip by an artificial famine.

That’s clearly what the Egyptians think, because they are clearing a 16-square-kilometre area just across the border from Gaza and building a wall around it, presumably to contain a flood of starving refugees from the Strip. (Cairo claims that it is a ‘logistical hub’, but that is palpable nonsense.)

Yet President Biden ignores all this and goes along with the fiction that there is some sort of undefined problem causing a famine in Gaza that must be solved by this elaborate charade about delivering food by sea. Various NATO/European Union countries are launching their own equally nonsensical plan to ship food into Gaza by sea.

They are either fools or poltroons – whereas both the Hamas leadership and Netanyahu’s government definitely belong in both categories at once. They are both determined to continue the war until the other side caves in, and neither has any hope of achieving that aim.

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To shorten to 700 words, omit paragraphs 6 and 13. (“Speculate…ridiculous”; and “That’s…nonsense”)