President Joe Biden is confronting a significant challenge within his own party as he grapples with Israel’s response to the conflict with Hamas. While Biden has long held a view of Israel as a besieged state and has revered the country, a faction within the Democratic Party sees Israel differently, perceiving it as a military power suppressing Palestinians.
This situation is tearing at Biden’s political coalition, forcing him to find a delicate balance between supporting Israel’s self-defense and addressing concerns over civilian casualties and Palestinian rights. The president’s efforts to unify the country amid the crisis have proven less successful, as a growing backlash within his party threatens to splinter his support base.
Democratic Party Divide:
Biden’s long-standing admiration for Israel and his personal connection to the Jewish state are causing friction within his own party. While nearly 70% of Democrats approve of the president’s overall job performance, a significant drop to 50% was observed in the approval of his handling of the conflict in Gaza, as per an Associated Press-NORC survey.
Within Congress, some Democratic lawmakers, particularly younger progressive members, are pressuring the White House to adopt a more critical tone towards Israel’s actions. Concerns are expressed that failing to do so could lead to the loss of crucial support in key battleground states like Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Biden’s Diplomatic Challenge:
As a crucial partner to Israeli leaders, Biden faces the delicate task of helping them counter Hamas while minimizing civilian casualties. This entails reassuring the Jewish population while also avoiding alienating Arab and Muslim Americans who advocate for stronger accountability towards Israel.
Additionally, Biden aims to prevent further escalation of the conflict, which could draw other nations into a broader global crisis. The president has warned Middle East adversaries against attacking Israel, seeking to deter any additional violence.
Criticism of Biden’s Approach:
Critics argue that Biden has not used all available leverage in reining in Israel’s military actions. Some Democrats suggest attaching conditions to the $14 billion aid package requested by the White House. However, it remains uncertain whether a majority of Congress would support such measures.
Calls for a cease-fire from younger, progressive Democrats aligning with Arab Americans further highlight the party’s divide. Biden’s refusal to endorse a cease-fire has drawn criticism, contrasting with his alignment with Israeli leaders who argue that such a pause would allow Hamas to regroup.
Outreach Efforts and Generation Gap:
Aware of the discontent among younger progressives, the White House has tried to reach out to Arab, Palestinian, and Muslim Americans to explain its approach to the conflict. However, these attempts have elicited mixed responses, with some perceiving them as a mere check-the-box effort rather than genuine engagement.
The generational divide plays a significant role in how Americans view Israel, with older generations recalling a different era of peace talks and signed agreements, while many younger Americans perceive Prime Minister Netanyahu as a polarizing figure hindering progress towards a two-state solution.
As Biden navigates the complexities of the Israel-Hamas conflict, he faces significant challenges from within his party. Balancing his long-standing support for Israel with growing demands for accountability and concerns over civilian casualties strains the unity of his political coalition.
With a generational divide shaping the perspectives of younger progressives, Biden must find a way to address these concerns and bridge the gap to maintain party unity going forward.