Biden wants 'calm' in the Mideast. So much for peace.
7 min read
As the conflict claims more lives, the words U.S. officials use are telling.
Not so much.

As the body count rises in the latest Israeli-Palestinian clashes, Biden and his aides' public commentary offers a sobering reminder of how low the new U.S. administration has set its expectations for helping resolve the broader, decades-old Mideast conflict. The administration made clear early on that the Israeli-Palestinian crisis was not going to be a top priority, and it has struggled to keep up with the fast-moving violence that spiraled a week ago.

Along the way, Biden aides have made fleeting references to standard concepts like a two-state solution or the need for "peaceful coexistence" in Jerusalem. They have, notably, said on several occasions some version of how Palestinians and Israelis deserve "equal measure of freedom, prosperity and democracy." And on Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken went further than most of his colleagues, suggesting the U.S. may try to reinvigorate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

But overall, the administration's language suggests that the end goal remains merely to defuse the current crisis, not tackle the bigger, deeper, more existential one.

And even then, the messages are mixed.

For instance, the Biden team hasn't coupled its appeals for "calm" with public demands for a cease-fire, and it has blocked U.N. Security Council statements calling for a cessation of hostilities. That has raised questions about the administration's motives while hurting Biden's standing among Palestinians and some Democrats.

Biden himself appears to be setting a low bar. In a recent statement, Biden spoke of the need for Palestinians to have "freedom, prosperity and democracy" just like Israelis, but he then pledged "to work toward sustained calm."

That led to furious retorts, with some activists and analysts noting that phrases like "calm for calm" and "quiet for quiet" have been used in the past to describe what only prove to be temporary détentes in the conflict.

"'Sustained calm' is a euphemism for…
Nahal Toosi
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