By traveling to Europe, Biden will find both solidarity and isolation

When President Biden arrives in France on Wednesday, he will rally European leaders to his side and demonstrate the resolve he helped foster on Ukraine's behalf.

But he will also challenge the leaders themselves and remain virtually alone among Western democracies still firmly in support of Israel as it wages war in Gaza.

When Biden arrives in France for the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, it will be his first time in Europe since the October 7 terrorist attack led by Hamas, which killed 1,200 people in Israel and triggered military retaliation which killed around 36,000 people in Gaza. Next week he will return to Europe for a summit in Italy with Group of 7 leaders, and three weeks later he will host the 75th anniversary summit of NATO countries in Washington.

The series of meetings will put Biden in a position he hasn't experienced since becoming president: He will be both embraced and isolated by the same group of allies he has courted for nearly four years. For a president who has emphasized his support for America's traditional alliances, it represents a challenge that will test his diplomatic skills in unusual ways.

“Gaza undermines the moral clarity of the discussion they want to have about Ukraine,” said Peter Beinart, a professor of journalism and politics at the City University of New York and a longtime analyst of Middle East affairs who has been critical of the government Israeli. “The Gaza war makes this story much less compelling for many people.”

Ivo Daalder, who served as ambassador to NATO under President Barack Obama, acknowledged the tension in Biden's approach.

“Yes, it seems slightly contradictory to make one argument about Russia and another about Israel,” said Daalder, who now serves as president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “But the situations are different. One was attacked and the other attacked. It's pretty big.

European allies, with a couple of notable exceptions, have been strongly aligned with Washington for more than two years in the multinational campaign to defeat Russia after the invasion of Ukraine, broadly matching American investments in the war with own commitments in Kiev. But Europeans have become increasingly critical of the way Israel is conducting its operations in Gaza over the past nine months, even as the Biden administration rebuffed attempts by the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court to seek arrest warrants for Israeli leaders accused of war crimes. .

The disparate priorities will be highlighted in an event intended to showcase the unity and resolve of the West. The Normandy landings on June 6, 1944 will be celebrated as the culmination of the alliance that defeated Nazi Germany. French President Emmanuel Macron will host leaders of World War II partner countries, including King Charles, Queen Camilla, Prince William and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, representing the two nations that they joined the United States in staging the climactic amphibious invasion.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will also participate in a show of European reconciliation, representing the defeated enemy. Russian President Vladimir V. Putin will not be present, however, despite the Soviet Union's alliance with the West during the war. The Macron government initially invited lower-level Russian representatives to participate, but rescinded the offer after objections stemming from Moscow's aggression in Ukraine. By contrast, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will attend the ceremony, an opportunity for him to pressure Western leaders for more aid.

John F. Kirby, a White House spokesman, said President Biden knows that not all nations agree with his policies. “Disagreements with allies and partners are nothing new to President Biden,” Kirby said, “any more than unity, cooperation and collaboration, which he also promotes on a range of issues.”

The meetings between Biden and allies come at a critical time in both Europe and the Middle East. Ukraine is trying to repel an escalating Russian offensive that threatens to decisively breach its eastern defenses after two years of heavy fighting. Hundreds of kilometers away, Israel and Hamas are both under pressure to reach a ceasefire agreement that could be the last chance for a path to more sustainable peace in the region.

Biden on Friday outlined a ceasefire agreement that would ultimately lead to the release of all hostages held by Hamas, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and a “permanent” end to the war. By proposing a deal that Europeans can support, the president may have found a way to minimize differences once he arrives in Paris.

The Group of 7 countries, including the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, released a statement Monday endorsing the deal outlined by Biden and calling on Hamas to accept it.

At the same time, Biden addressed another difficult issue before the trip, authorizing Ukraine for the first time to use U.S.-supplied weapons against targets inside Russia in self-defense under limited circumstances, which France, Great Britain, Germany, Poland and other countries. the allies had already embraced each other.

“The only way out of such a dilemma is to move forward on both issues: help Ukraine do better or win and put Israel on the path to peace,” said Dan Fried, a retired diplomat now at the Atlantic Council in Washington. “Hence the decision to eliminate some restrictions on Ukraine's use of American weapons and to promote a complex and ambitious peace plan” in Gaza.

However, the differences remain real and clear. Spain, Ireland and Norway formally recognized an independent Palestinian state last week, days after the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to halt its military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. Most European governments have supported war crimes prosecutions against Israel at the International Criminal Court. “France supports the International Criminal Court, its independence and the fight against impunity in all situations,” the country's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

France has not acted to recognize a Palestinian state, but voted at the United Nations in May to support Palestine's inclusion as a full member of the organization. Britain, which is no longer part of the European Union, abstained from that vote.

Biden's critics have said he has no one to blame for his diplomatic challenges in Europe but himself for an inconsistent approach to international crises.

“The contradiction, I think, is in American policy,” said Peter Rough, director of the Center on Europe and Eurasia at the Hudson Institute and a former aide to President George W. Bush. “In Ukraine, he is supporting Ukraine against the Russian-Iranian alliance, while in Gaza he is managing Israel, even limiting it, while confronting an Iranian representative.”

On the other side of the spectrum, some foreign policy veterans have said Biden has brought himself trouble by being too pro-Israel.

“I'm not at all sure that Biden has made the right choices on Israel-Gaza, although I recognize that he is in a difficult situation, as is our country,” said Eric Rubin, a longtime American diplomat and former president of American party. Foreign Service Association. “Israel has lost the sympathy of most other countries and their citizens, and I fear we will not see it regain it in our lifetime.”

But ultimately, some diplomats said, France and other allies ultimately defer to the United States when it comes to such matters. And although he will find them on different pages, Biden enjoys a constructive relationship with his colleagues, unlike his predecessor and possible successor, Donald J. Trump, who berated European allies for their disagreements and left them fearing the his potential return to his homeland. office.

“The United States continues to play an indispensable role,” Daalder said. “Everyone is looking to us to figure out how to deal with Russia, how to deal with China and, frankly, even how to deal with Israel. We are still seen by our friends and our adversaries as those who will determine the outcome.”

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