Biden looks to boost Israel as Democrats fracture

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the war between Israel and Hamas after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023, in Tel Aviv. Evan Vucci/AP

Biden looks to boost Israel as Democrats fracture

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President Joe Biden reiterated his support for Israel during a whirlwind trip to the embattled nation and is planning to do so again in a prime-time speech on Thursday night.

While some on the Left are calling for a ceasefire or in some cases openly supporting Hamas, Biden reiterated that he backs Israel and said he’d be asking Congress to approve aid.


“For decades, we’ve ensured Israel’s qualitative military edge,” Biden said. “And later this week, I’m going to ask the United States Congress for an unprecedented support package for Israel’s defense.”

The president was in Israel for just seven hours, less time than it took to fly to the country and back, but he felt it was necessary to make his point clear.

“I come to Israel with a single message: You are not alone,” Biden said in Tel Aviv. “You are not alone. As long as the United States stands — and we will stand forever — we will not let you ever be alone.”

The trip originally was going to include meetings with Jordanian, Egyptian, and Palestinian leaders along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Meetings with the first three were postponed amid reports that an Israeli rocket had hit a Gaza hospital — reports that turned out to be false.

A few outspoken members of Biden’s own Democratic Party, most notably the progressive House group informally known as the “Squad,” took the opportunity to admonish Biden for refusing to call for a ceasefire.

“Bombing a hospital is among the gravest of war crimes,” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) posted on X, formerly Twitter. “The IDF reportedly blowing up one of the few places the injured and wounded can seek medical treatment and shelter during a war is horrific. [Biden] needs to push for an immediate ceasefire to end this slaughter.”

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) weighed in as well, posting, “Israel just bombed the Baptist Hospital killing 500 Palestinians (doctors, children, patients) just like that. [Biden] this is what happens when you refuse to facilitate a ceasefire & help de-escalate.”

While some may point to those developments as a failure for Biden, UCLA global studies lecturer Benjamin Radd argues the president comes out ahead on both points.

“Those Arab leaders are now cut out of this discussion,” Radd said. “Gaza will still get the aid that it needs, but nobody can say that Biden didn’t try [to meet with them].”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi later had a phone call with Biden, and the two agreed to open up the Rafah gate to allow humanitarian assistance into Gaza on the condition that the gate would be closed again if Hamas intervenes.

Similarly, Radd says the fact that the hospital reports turned out to be false reflects poorly on the Squad members, making Biden shine in comparison.

Biden spoke in Tel Aviv on the need for a safe return for hostages and noted that President Harry S. Truman was the first to recognize Israel.

“We’ve stood by your side ever since,” Biden said. “We’re going to stand by your side now.”

He added that the Oct. 7 attacks were “like 15 9/11s” given the relative size of Israel compared to the U.S.

While Republicans are united in their support for Israel, the GOP still found plenty to criticize in Biden’s actions. One was his announcement of $100 million in aid for Gaza and the West Bank. The move was designed to address humanitarian concerns surrounding Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip.

Presidential candidate Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) called the aid “Biden’s $100 million gift to Hamas,” while the Republican National Committee claimed, “Biden is showering Hamas terrorists with more taxpayer funding.”

The RNC also criticized the brevity of Biden’s trip by dubbing it “Biden’s drive-by in Israel.”

For Biden, the trip was the continuation of a relationship with the country that began 50 years ago, when he first visited as a 30-year-old senator and was told by then-Prime Minister Golda Meir the country’s secret was that its residents had no place else to go.


Just as Biden is now working to shore up Republican support for additional Ukraine funding, he may have to eventually work to keep Democrats in line when it comes to Israel. Radd thinks he’s handling the job well so far.

“He was very earnest and emotional (during his speech), and his use of anecdotes I thought was both forceful and yet measured,” Radd said. “He called for restraint and for staying the hand of vengeance. It’s classic Biden and was appealing to all of the passions on both sides of this conflict.”

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