For some countries, the rekindled conflict over the Palestinian issue has also inflamed old beliefs that the United States is anti-Muslim, or at least too biased toward Israel. After years of watching Washington avoid confronting the often harsh mistreatment of Palestinians by both the Israeli government and extremist Israeli settlers, some no longer trust the United States to be a fair broker.
When Mr. Austin, the defense secretary, gets to Indonesia, he is likely to face an angry public, if not anti-U.S. protests, despite his efforts to advise Israel’s military on how to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza.
“There is significant cynicism toward U.S. calls for Israeli restraint,” said Chong Ja Ian, an associate professor of political science at the National University of Singapore. “In many ways, the Biden administration has a difficult job and has to bear the baggage of past U.S. policy, which makes it all the more important for the administration to get things right and show that it is trying hard to be evenhanded.”
Efforts by Mr. Blinken to meet with Arab leaders and try to broker a pause in the fighting for humanitarian assistance “somewhat tempers the impression that the U.S. is just simply backing Israel regardless of Israeli actions,” Mr. Chong added. And at a meeting of G7 foreign ministers this week in Japan, the grouping of leading democracies joined that call for “humanitarian pauses.”
But for Japan and many other American partners in Asia, the war in Gaza risks disrupting both oil supplies and progress on security. The faster it ends, in their view, the faster the world can get back to what Washington still defines as its most important challenge: deterrence and competition with China in an interdependent world.
Asked in Japan on Wednesday if the United States was too occupied with the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine to continue its pivot to Asia, Mr. Blinken said: “I can tell you that we are determined and we are, as we would say, running and chewing gum at the same time. The Indo-Pacific is the critical region for our future.”
“Even as we’re dealing with a real crisis in Gaza and the Middle East,” he added, “we’re also not only able, but we’re fully engaged in all of the interests we have in the Indo-Pacific.”
Motoko Rich contributed reporting from Tokyo.