Over the coming hours, the Israeli military will reveal the results of its own inquiry into how it managed to kill seven aid workers in Gaza.

At the White House in Washington, they already know the content of the inquiry.

The details would have formed the heart of a tricky phone conversation between President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday.

The result of that phone call was a demand from the US president that Israel “announce and implement a series of specific, concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers”.

The White House readout of the phone call said: “[Biden] made clear that US policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel’s immediate action on these steps.”

Biden recently ratcheted up pressure on Netanyahu following the deaths of foreign aid workers in Gaza.

That point was developed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said: “If we don’t see the changes that we need to see, there’ll be changes in our own policy.”

What forced the Israelis to conduct and publish an inquiry into the killings? And what forced President Biden to threaten Israel with a change in American policy on Gaza? The killing of foreign aid workers.

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A cynical conclusion? No: the blunt reality.

A World Central Kitchen vehicle wrecked by an Israeli strike. Pic: AP
Seven foreign WCK workers and a Palestinian driver were killed in the strike. Pic: AP

About 200 Palestinian aid workers have been killed in Gaza since the 7 October Hamas attacks on Israel. They are among more than 30,000 people killed in six months across a closed strip of land just 25 miles long and 6 miles wide.

Much of that strip has been flattened. Hospitals have been destroyed along with other infrastructure – mosques, courts, schools.

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There is an acute humanitarian crisis across the strip topped by a famine in the north.

But it was the death of foreigners working for the charity World Central Kitchen which prompted Israeli investigation and the American shift in language.

The blood-stained passports of three of the aid workers killed by Israel. Pic: AP
The blood-stained passports of three of the aid workers killed by Israel. Pic: AP

One US official said this moment “is an inflection point in this war” – an inflection point only because the Israeli mistake this time was killing foreigners.

I say “mistake this time” because it’s likely the Israeli investigation will conclude it was a mistake. The obvious question then is how many other mistakes have there been where Palestinians died, and no investigation came?

One separate thought: the US says it’s policy on Gaza “might change” if Israel doesn’t change its tactics. But what would a change in America’s policy actually look like?

There is plenty of chatter about the prospect of the US pulling its military supply chain to Israel. What that sounds like and what it would looks like are two different things.

Do not expect America to cut Israel off. Biden wouldn’t do it. Congress wouldn’t allow it.

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Jerusalem, February 18, 2024. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo
“Do not expect America to cut Israel off. Biden wouldn’t do it. Congress wouldn’t allow it”. Pic: Reuters

If America was to limit its supply of weapons to Israel, it could leave the Jewish State in an existential position. Iran and its powerful proxies across the region could exploit the weakness.

And it’s not as if America can meaningfully dictate how Israel uses weapons it receives from America. It can hardly insist “don’t use these in Gaza”.

Look again at the language the Americans are using. Biden talked about US policy “with respect to Gaza”.

Later in the statement: “President Biden made clear that the United States strongly supports Israel in the face of [Iranian] threats.”

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That’s the nub of it. Biden wants to rein in Netanyahu with respect to Gaza – but the key lever he has is one he really can’t pull without exposing Israel to a greater existential threat.

That’s Biden’s challenge, and it’s Netanyahu’s advantage.