Biden’s plan for maritime aid deliveries to Gaza draws skepticism

The most generous views of President Biden’s plan to establish a maritime aid corridor to Gaza were marked by skepticism that it would work — allowing, as he said during Thursday night’s State of the Union speech, a “massive increase” in the amount of food, water and medicine to Palestinians who have little to none.

Others responding to Biden’s proposal, which includes the building of a temporary pier and port in Gaza and aid deliveries from Cyprus, saw in the plan more evidence of the president’s reluctance to confront Israel over its obstruction of relief deliveries and a continued refusal to use the United States’ extraordinary leverage, as Israel’s main military backer, to alter the catastrophic course of the war.

Sigrid Kaag, the United Nations senior humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for Gaza, said she welcomed the plan. “At the same time I cannot but repeat, air and sea is not a substitute for land,” she added, referring to aid delivered to the enclave by trucks through border crossings.

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British Foreign Minister David Cameron, whose government is participating in the U.S. maritime delivery plan, echoed the sentiment. “We continue to urge Israel to allow more trucks into Gaza as the fastest way to get aid to those who need it,” he said in a post Friday on X.

The backdrop to the U.S. maritime plan is a hunger crisis spreading across Gaza that aid officials say is man-made, the result of limited entry points for supplies, an onerous Israeli inspection process and Israeli attacks on aid convoys and police guarding them. Israel has denied limiting aid to Gaza.

Gaza aid delivery hampered by Israeli attacks on police, rising chaos

“A temporary pier that could take weeks to construct or airdrops are not a solution,” the International Rescue Committee said in a statement. “The US must use its influence to ensure that Israel lifts its siege of Gaza, reopens its crossings, including the Karni and Erez crossings in the north, and allows the safe and unimpeded movement of humanitarian workers and aid — including fuel, food, and medical supplies.”

Biden’s speech Thursday included a rare acknowledgment by the president of the scale of Palestinian suffering in Gaza during Israel’s military offensive, including the massive death toll. “This war has taken a greater toll on innocent civilians than all previous wars in Gaza combined. More than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed, most of whom are not Hamas,” Biden said, citing a tally by the Health Ministry in Gaza, whose figures he previously derided as suspect.

But in his address, Biden “speaks as if what is happening in Gaza is far from American weapons,” said Eyad Amin, 36, a resident of the enclave who has been displaced to the southern town of Rafah.

“Our problem is not aid,” he said. “Yes, there is a crisis in Gaza, but the solution to the crisis cannot be achieved through increasing aid. We need a cease-fire. We need to end the suffering completely,” he said.

“We need to live normally like other people in the whole world,” Amin added. “Establishing a port in Gaza will not change the reality.”

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