U.S. ‘losing a tremendous amount of credibility in the Arab world,’ ex-Egyptian minister says

ARISH, EGYPT - NOVEMBER 22: Ambulances used to transport patients from Gaza via the Rafah crossing are seen on November 22, 2023 in Arish, Egypt. Early this morning, Israel and Hamas announced a four-day truce that would pause fighting in the war that's raged since Oct. 7. Media reports indicate that, as part of the deal, 200 aid trucks, four fuel tankers, and four trucks carrying gas, will be able to enter Gaza via Egypt's Rafah crossing on each of the four days. (Photo by Ali Moustafa/Getty Images)

The current conflict in Gaza should provide a wake-up call to politicians in Washington, D.C, according to a former Egyptian foreign minister, who questioned the U.S.′ role in the region and the wider world.

The United States has been very vocal about the latest Israel-Hamas war, with President Joe Biden saying he will continue to support Israel’s campaign against the Palestinian militant group.

It comes amid heavy international criticism of Israel’s bombardment of the territory following the Oct. 7 terror attacks by Hamas, which were also widely condemned.

Former Egyptian Foreign Affairs Minister Nabil Fahmy told CNBC that the U.S. is “losing a tremendous amount of credibility in the Arab world.” 

The “U.S. needs to take a serious look at its role. If it wants to support a stable world order based on rule of law, it has to demand everybody respect international law, whether friend or foe,” Fahmy, who served as minister between 2013 and 2014, said in an interview.

A White House spokesperson told CNBC that “Israel has the right to defend itself in compliance with international law, including international humanitarian law, especially as Hamas terrorists have said that what happened on October 7th ‘will happen again and again and again’ until Israel is annihilated.”

The Hamas-run health ministry says over 15,800 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the attacks on southern Israel that killed some 1,200 people. 

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The U.S has faced criticism for its support of Israel’s actions. Washington had previously vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that called for a humanitarian pause to allow for the delivery of aid into Gaza. 

Domestically, Biden has been warned by some Muslim American and Arab American leaders in swing states that he is losing support from their communities, according to NBC News.

Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group, believes Biden is, on the global stage, probably as isolated on this issue as the Russians were when they first invaded Ukraine. He added that the Democrats are increasingly aligned with the Palestinian position.

“It shows just how challenging this war continuing is going to be for U.S. foreign policy,” he told CNBC Tuesday.

The White House spokesperson told CNBC in an emailed statement that the U.S. continues to “urge Israel about the importance of preventing harm to civilians, and we are working with all partners in the region to increase the flow of additional life-saving aid into Gaza for Palestinian civilians.”

Egypt’s role

Egypt – which borders Gaza – has played a key role in the humanitarian efforts surrounding the war to date, not least because it is home to the Rafah crossing, the only exit point out of the Gaza Strip.

Hundreds of Palestinians anxiously hope to make the journey to Egypt via this route. In the deal brokered by Qatar with Egypt, Israel, and Hamas, more than 500 foreign nationals were transported to Egypt in the first week of November. Egypt also accepted over 80 injured and sick people for treatment through the Rafah crossing in early November, which is mostly controlled by Egypt’s intelligence ministry. 

“We have a common border and we have allowed them to come to Egyptian hospitals until they can travel on to their homeland,” Fahmy told CNBC.

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Limited evacuations of fragile patients have been coordinated by the Palestine Red Crescent Society, the World Health Organization, and the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The organizations have successfully evacuated premature babies from Gaza to Egypt. 

As the closest and only functional border crossing, Rafah has been used to transport the most vulnerable Palestinians during the Israeli bombardment. The Palestine Red Crescent Society’s spokesperson Nebal Farsakh said they had evacuated 28 premature babies via the crossing. 

“They were transported to get treatment at Egyptian hospitals because the babies had health complications from the electricity being cut off which led the incubators to shut down,” she told CNBC from Ramallah, a city in the West Bank. 

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