Old obstacles remain for peace

Neighbours and relatives assess the damage inside a house in Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, on May 19, 2021. (PHOTO / AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Tel Aviv on Tuesday to support "efforts to solidify a cease-fire", days after an Egypt-brokered truce halted fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, although doubts persist on the ability of the US to completely resolve the crisis.

Blinken, who spoke after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the United States would work to address the "grave humanitarian situation" in Gaza but would also ensure that Gaza's militant Hamas rulers do not benefit from reconstruction assistance. He was not scheduled to meet the leaders of Hamas during the trip.

The narrow coastal territory of Gaza, home to more than 2 million Palestinians, has been under a crippling blockade since 2007.

It (the US) may just follow the global general trend to show its sense of responsibility for peace, but overall, it won't be able to solve the Israel-Palestine question.

Zhou Xinyu, professor at the Beijing Foreign Studies University

US President Joe Biden said earlier that Blinken would meet "with Israeli leaders about our ironclad commitment to Israel's security", as well as seeking to rebuild ties with the Palestinians.

Although the Biden administration has been actively involved in handling the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, the influence of the United States in the Middle East is declining, international experts said.

US global influence has not been as powerful as it was in the 1990s when it could solely promote peace talks, or even determine the political landscape in the Middle East, said Zhou Xinyu, a professor at the Beijing Foreign Studies University.

Washington currently lacks such ability and influence in the region, especially considering the fact it has undertaken a strategic contraction from regional affairs in the Middle East, he added. "It may just follow the global general trend to show its sense of responsibility for peace, but overall, it won't be able to solve the Israel-Palestine question."

The latest conflict was triggered by weeks of clashes in Jerusalem between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in and around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a flashpoint holy site.

Israeli raids on Gaza killed 248 Palestinians, including 66 children, and have wounded over 1,900 people, the Gaza health ministry said. Israel says 12 people in the country, including two children, also died.

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Facing chaos in the region, the United Nations Security Council, together with dozens of countries and international organizations, constantly demanded a de-escalation in the war. After 11 days of deadly exchanges, Israel and Hamas finally agreed on Friday to cease fighting.

While Biden welcomed the truce, his administration on May 17 blocked attempts for the third time at the Security Council to pass a joint resolution condemning the violent escalation of the Palestine-Israel conflict.

Precision-guided weapons

US media reported the next day that Biden greenlighted a sale of US$735 million worth of precision-guided weapons to Israel, raising more concerns about the motivations of the US.

The seemingly inconsistent words and behavior are actually a reflection of the US defending its own interests, said Zhou.

"When civilian casualties kept increasing and international society paid closer attention, it's impossible for the Biden administration to miss such a good opportunity to show its global leadership," he said.

Dong Manyuan, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies and an expert on the Middle East, said such actions showed the real standing of the US on the Palestine-Israel issue is "all for its own interests", instead of truly pursuing peace in that region.

The US planned to change its Middle East strategy, vowing to return to a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and recognizing the two-state solution for Israel and Palestine again. But the moves irritated long-term ally Israel.

READ MORE: Blinken vows US support to rebuild Gaza, prevent war

When the international community showed sympathy to people in the Gaza Strip, Dong said the Biden administration took the opportunity to "favor and pacify" Israel by rejecting the Security Council's resolution.

"The US wants to strike a balance between both sides," he said. "What it did is just for its own interests."

Yang Ran in Beijing and agencies via Xinhua contributed to this story.