Editorial Roundup: United States

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

Oct. 18

The Los Angeles Times on the Israel-Palestine conflict

The Oct. 7 attack on Israelis by Hamas militants was an unspeakable act of terrorism and Israel has every right to use military force to prevent future such atrocities. But in doing so it must stay true to its values by doing everything possible to minimize the suffering of innocent Palestinian residents of Gaza.

That seemed to be President Biden’s message for Israelis when he spoke Wednesday in Tel Aviv, reminding his hosts that “the vast majority of Palestinians are not Hamas. Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people.”

Biden expressed solidarity with the Israeli people and promised that he would ask Congress for “an unprecedented support package for Israel’s defense.” He adroitly combined that statement of support with a gentle but unmistakable plea for Israel to achieve “clarity about the objectives and an honest assessment about whether the path you’re on will achieve those objectives.” This is the appropriate role for the U.S. to play at this stage.

The president recalled that after 9/11: “We were enraged in the United States. While we sought justice and got justice, we also made mistakes.”

Israel should take that wise counsel to heart as it continues its campaign to destroy Hamas, which might soon involve an invasion of Gaza. ... That Israel does not target civilians is small comfort for the families of those killed or wounded.

Nor can civilians be sure that relocating will spare them from harm. The New York Times reported this week that Palestinians who heeded an Israeli order to evacuate portions of the Gaza Strip and head south are enduring airstrikes even after they have moved.

Biden also announced that Israel had agreed to allow humanitarian assistance to enter Gaza from Egypt. It’s appalling that trucks laden with food and supplies have been stalled in Egypt near the Gaza border. He also promised an additional $100 million in humanitarian assistance for Gaza and the West Bank.

The president had hoped on this visit to the Middle East to meet in Jordan with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi. But the meeting was canceled after Abbas withdrew following an explosion at a hospital in Gaza ... Biden said that the U.S. believes that the explosion was the result of “an errant rocket fired by a terrorist group in Gaza,” as Israel has insisted.

Finally, it’s important that Biden in his remarks Wednesday expressed support for the elusive two-state solution in which Israel would peacefully coexist with a Palestinian state. He indicated that his administration would continue to “keep working for Israel’s greater integration with its neighbors.”

Now as so often in the past, the United States must balance its support for Israel with its mission of promoting peace and cooperation in a volatile region. The vicious attack by Hamas and its awful aftermath make that quest more, not less, urgent.



Oct. 19

The Guardian on the words and actions of Israel's allies

Joe Biden was scarcely back in the White House after Wednesday’s Middle East trip before Rishi Sunak became the next international leader to fly into Tel Aviv to express solidarity with Israel. Mr Sunak’s visit, which also came after one by the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, on Tuesday, followed an established pattern. He met the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to say he stood by Israel, paid a visit to President Isaac Herzog and held emotional meetings with families of some of the more than 1,400 Israelis who were murdered or kidnapped by Hamas on 7 October.

These visits all matter morally. More than anything else, they are public acts of solidarity and fellow feeling towards Israel and its people by their allies and their citizens. But these are also highly political trips, the public tip of an iceberg of diplomacy in which these allies are attempting, with nuances of difference and only mixed success, to influence its response to the Hamas attacks.

Mr Biden’s visit was by far the most important part of this. It could hardly be otherwise, given America’s wealth and aid, its military might in the region and the personal links that go with the U.S.’s status as the first nation to recognise Israel. Germany and Britain are only secondary players by comparison. Mr Sunak’s onward journey to Riyadh this week is an example of it. Mr Biden’s cancelled summit with Palestinian, Jordanian and Egyptian leaders, boycotted by the Arab leaders after the explosion at Gaza’s al-Ahli Arab hospital this week, would have been an even more important one.

Mr Biden was characteristically empathic to Israelis on Wednesday. But he talked publicly, and presumably also in private, about the need for Israeli self-restraint and about the urgent humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The descant to Washington’s support is its clear concern that overreaction by Israel would worsen the already severe suffering in Gaza, where at least 3,500 people have died, and escalate the conflict into a regional war into which others, including the US, risk being dragged. That anxiety is still strong.

The president said three significant things that need to be extended much further. First, he responded to Mr Netanyahu’s comparison with 9/11 by openly cautioning against allowing rage to shape policy. This is wise counsel and should be followed through. Second, Mr Biden pledged $100m in humanitarian aid for the Palestinian territories. Even millions are not enough ... Finally, he recommitted to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Eventually, this is the only way to peace and justice for all.

Mr Netanyahu, fighting for his political life, is unlikely to take much of this seriously. That is why some of the things that Mr Biden did not say also matter. Most ominously, he passed over the likelihood of Israeli ground operations, which all but confirms reports that the U.S. has given the nod to them. Mr. Sunak was noticeably less cautionary about overreaction. Although Mr. Biden spoke about Gaza’s need for food, water and medicine, he said nothing about electricity and fuel, which Israel has also blocked, making hospitals all but impossible to keep open.

A ground operation in Gaza would worsen the humanitarian crisis. Civilians are certain to be casualties, as they have often been before. This would have political consequences that are probably already germinating, empowering militant factions against those who support a peace process. The likelihood of regional escalation would grow. The conflict might migrate haphazardly around the globe. No one pretends that the alternative, protecting civilians while hunting down Hamas, is straightforward. But in the short and long term alike, it is the better way, and there is too little sign of real progress towards it.



Oct. 23

China Daily on the U.S. blindly supporting Israel

Even after two weeks of Israeli missiles and airstrikes constantly pounding the Gaza Strip and the deaths and displacement of thousands of Palestinians, and counterstrikes by Hamas, there is no sign of any de-escalation in the conflict. Israel continued to bombard Gaza even on Monday.

At least 4,600 people have been killed in the Israeli bombardments which began after the Hamas militants attacked southern and central Israel on Oct 7 in which 1,200 people were killed and about 200 taken hostage. As civilian casualties mount, homes, schools and hospitals turn into rubble, and shortages of water, food, medicine, electricity and fuel make life a nightmare in Gaza, the innocent Palestinian people call on the world to end the conflict.

It is incumbent upon the international community, therefore, to make concerted efforts to immediately end the fighting. Yet the United States has been adding fuel to the fire by blindly backing Israel in the ongoing conflict, promising to provide it with material and military aid. Worse, last week, the U.S. vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution seeking a “humanitarian pause” to deliver lifesaving aid to millions of civilians in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Washington’s long-standing support for Israel makes it turn a blind eye to the interests of the Palestinians, including their need for an independent Palestinian state. The U.S.’ “unlimited”, unconditional support for Israel’s bombarding of Gaza has not only upset the Arab world but also sparked discontent in the U.S. State Department. “There’s basically a mutiny brewing” within the department “at all levels,” news website HuffPost reported last week, quoting an unnamed official.

Josh Paul, director of congressional and public affairs for the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, quit last week over what he described as the Joe Biden administration’s “intellectual bankruptcy” in sending more weapons to Israel. He called the move “shortsighted, destructive, unjust, and contradictory to the very values that we publicly espouse”.

Violence perpetuates a cycle of unresolved conflicts, leading to more violence. The only way to resolve the Palestine-Israel conflict therefore is to implement the U.N.’s two-state solution that would enable the Palestinians to establish their own independent state based on the pre-1967 borders, an approach that has been supported by the majority of the international community.

Although the U.S. may not be in favor of this solution — as evidenced by its voting against related U.N. resolutions against Israel — it should fulfill its global responsibility as the world’s sole superpower by helping avoid a bigger humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. But will the self-proclaimed “champion” of democracy, freedom and human rights do so?


Oct. 22

The Wall Street Journal on EVs and Biden’s fuel-economy rules

General Motors last week said it is delaying electric pick-up truck production in Michigan, citing slowing demand for EVs and the need to make them more profitable. But the Biden Administration’s back-door EV mandate is ironically causing trouble for its plans for green-vehicle investment.

On Sept. 14, the day before the United Auto Workers launched its strike, the Energy Department sent letters to Ford, General Motors and Stellantis asking for help understanding “specific challenges” to its proposed rule that would reduce the credits under the corporate average fuel economy (Cafe) standards for producing electric vehicles.

The issue is technical, but bear with us because this is a tale of regulation at crazy cross-purposes. Congress’s 1979 Chrysler bailout required the Energy Department to impute a “petroleum equivalency factor” for EVs they might produce to give Detroit auto makers a means of complying with Cafe standards besides making more fuel efficient trucks.

In 2000 the Clinton Administration sweetened the regulatory subsidy for EVs by assigning them a fuel economy multiplier of 6.67. Ergo, an EV calculated to get 40 miles per gallon would receive credit for 266.8 mpg under the Cafe standards.

Although Congress had limited this multiplier credit to cars that run on biofuels, natural gas and hydrogen, the Clinton Administration said it was only fair to give the bonus to EVs too. Subsequent Presidents kept this EV fillip because it has let Detroit auto makers churn out profitable gas guzzlers while meeting ever-rising fuel economy mandates.

Enter the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council, which petitioned the Biden Administration in 2021 to scrap the 6.67 multiplier for EVs. They note that its legal justification “is questionable, as the statute expressly provides for different treatment” between electric vehicles and those that run on so-called alternative fuels. They’re right.

But their real goal is to force auto makers to manufacture more EVs to meet Cafe standards, which the Administration has also proposed ratcheting up. “Excessively high imputed fuel economy values for EVs means that a relatively small number of EVs will mathematically guarantee compliance,” they noted.

The Energy Department in the spring proposed to eliminate the 6.67 multiplier while softening the impact with other changes. As a result, a Ford-150 Lightning would only be credited with 67.1 mpg, down from 237.7 mpg. But taken altogether, the Administration’s proposed revisions would in effect mandate that EVs make up 100% of new vehicles by 2032.

Detroit auto makers would be slammed harder than foreign competitors by the regulatory changes because pick-ups and SUVs make up a larger share of their fleet sales. “The average projected compliance cost per vehicle for the D3 is $2,151, while non-D3 auto manufacturers only see an increase of $546 per vehicle,” the Big Three recently told the Energy Department.

They add that the proposed rule would “devalue” their EV investments. This gives away that complying with government mandates, not satisfying consumers, is their chief preoccupation. GM’s strategy has been to produce just enough EV pick-ups to meet the Cafe standards. But under the Energy Department’s proposal, it could make more sense to pay the government penalties than to increase production of EVs that don’t sell. This may be why GM is now throttling EV production, as Ford has also done.

Unrealistic fuel economy standards combined with inflated credits for EVs have let auto makers pretend that their cars are more efficient than they are. It’s nice that the Administration is showing concern about the costs of its EV mandate, but it would be far better if it set fuel economy rules that were realistic and honest.