President Joe Biden is entering a new phase of the Israel–Hamas war after he ordered retaliatory airstrikes against Iran proxy forces following attacks on U.S. military facilities and troops in Iraq and Syria.
But as Israel readies its expected ground incursion, Biden is bracing for criticism from his political left and right, particularly regarding Iran.
Biden’s foreign policy critics, including Alexander Hamilton Society Executive Director Gabriel Scheinmann, have been urging the president to be tougher on Iran.
“I don’t think he’s doing a reasonable job in terms of understanding what the American interests are here and how to support Israel,” Scheinmann told the Washington Examiner. “He’s initiating a bear hug on the Israelis in the sense of all the words have been very supportive, and saying the right things, and no equivocation, but, at the same time, they’re acting to prevent the sort of response that Israel needs to take against Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Iranian proxies more broadly.”
“So I don’t think his response is very good at all in terms of actions because it would mean upending his Iran policy,” the Jewish Policy Center alumnus said. “Here is the evidence of that policy of enabling and appeasing coming home to roost in this Hamas attack and yet it doesn’t seem to have actually changed our policy.”
For Scheinmann, some of the Left’s scrutiny of Israel is premature since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not yet launched his ground incursion, opting instead for strikes and targeted raids, though these escalated on Friday. He, too, described Biden as “hedging” because the U.S. is sending aid to Gaza, in addition to delaying the incursion amid negotiations over the roughly 200 hostages held by Hamas.
Richard Goldberg, a Foundation for Defense of Democracies senior adviser, agreed Biden repeating that Israel should not go “too far” with its ground incursion, advocating humanitarian corridors in Gaza, and keeping Qatari communication channels with Hamas open are contradicting the “very support he’s indicating.” Goldberg also contended that Biden was underestimating the public concerning Israel.
“There’s just something about Islamic radical terrorism, Iran, and the defense of Israel that cuts across all of the political noise that has tried to undermine support for Ukraine,” the former White House National Security Council aide said. “It’s probably time for us to have a closer look at the funding sources behind the activism that’s being fueled around the country to undermine Israel.”
Bruce Jones, a Brookings Institution senior fellow, asserted Biden recognized Israel’s “responsibility” to respond to Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist attacks, while attempting to minimize the civilian loss of life.
“Despite all that, we’re still going to see a lot of damage and a lot of bloodshed,” the one-time United Nations adviser said. “It’s going to be hard for the United States to thread the needle between supporting Israel and not taking the fallout from that.”
Biden approved Wednesday night’s F-16 aircraft strikes on Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps military facilities in Syria — weapons and ammunition storage areas — to deter Iran from expanding the war after U.S. forces were attacked by proxies 19 times in the last 10 days. The Al-Asad Air Base in Iraq and al Tanf garrison in Syria were hit last week by one-way drones and rockets, injuring 21 service members, though they have all returned to duty. One contractor died from a cardiac arrest after an early warning system detected another potential threat.
“The president has been crystal clear that he’s going to act to protect U.S. personnel on the ground and we continue to reserve the right to respond to any attacks at a time and a place of our choosing,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Friday. “We will not hesitate to take further actions in our own self-defense.”
Approximately 900 U.S. service members have been deployed or are in the process of being deployed to the Middle East, according to the Pentagon.
“My warning to the ayatollah was that if they continue to move against those troops, we will respond, and he should be prepared,” Biden said this week. “It has nothing to do with Israel.”
As far-left Democrats criticize Biden for his Israel policy and Jewish Americans experience an increase in antisemitism, the president met with Muslim American community leaders this week at the White House as he expresses support for a humanitarian pause in Israel’s strikes and a two-state solution to the wider conflict.
“President Biden must immediately demand a ceasefire and put a stop to Israel’s ground invasion if they care at all about protecting the lives of innocent Palestinians or Israeli hostages,” Justice Democrats Executive Director Alexandra Rojas said Friday. “As Israel has cut off phone and internet service in Gaza, the United States cannot allow Benjamin Netanyahu to commit the final steps in his ethnic cleansing campaign under the cover of darkness — the world is still watching.”