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The Gaza war calls into question the moral rectitude of Western democracies

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While the need for a ceasefire to halt Gaza’s human carnage is selfevident, some drivers of the Biden administration’s debate about the timing of a ceasefire.

Jakarta, IO – The question is no longer if but when the United States will support a ceasefire in the Gaza war. 

While the need for a ceasefire to halt Gaza’s human carnage is self-evident, some drivers of the Biden administration’s debate about the timing of a ceasefire raise questions about the moral underpinnings of Western democracies. 

The debate suggests decisions are driven as much by perceived strategic and national interests as by perceptions of political fortunes and electoral calculations, even if that is at the expense of thousands of innocent lives. 

To be fair, the Biden administration’s balancing of support for Israel’s war goals – destruction of Hamas and release of hostages – with the electoral fallout of a confrontation with Israel over a ceasefire works in favour of an earlier rather than a later end to the Gaza war, at least on the administration’s timetable. 

The United States last week vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an immediate Gaza ceasefire. Senior Israeli officials worry the US could abstain, or even vote in favour, of a similar resolution if, and when, one is again tabled in the coming weeks. 

Already, the United States has reportedly given Israel a three-week deadline for ending the Gaza fighting. The White House denied giving Israel a “firm deadline”. 

This weekend, the United States fired a shot across Israel’s bow by not stopping the adoption by the World Health Organisation’s Executive Board of a resolution calling for the “immediate, sustained and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief” into Gaza. 

In addition to signalling Israel that it cannot continue to count on unconditional support, the United States, a member of the WHO’s 34-nation board, likely did not want to be seen opposing badly needed humanitarian aid. 

Even so, the fact that limiting the sacrifice of innocent lives doesn’t figure, at least not prominently, in US political calculations, particularly given the military and political alternatives available to Israel in responding to Hamas’ brutal October 7 attack, calls into question the moral and ethical underpinnings of politics in Western democracies. 

It also calls into question the integrity of democratic checks and balances that fail to distinguish between what is right and what is a political rather than a national interest. 

The prioritization of political fortune is no truer than for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who prides himself on governing a Western democracy. 

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