President Joe Biden’s declared support for Israel in its war against Hamas is facing scrutiny from some congressional Democrats. As the Jewish state mounts the next phase of its offensive against the terrorist organization in Gaza, some on the left have echoed many of the Arab world’s accusations against Israel’s military operations in the region.
When the war began on October 7 after Hamas launched a brutal surprise assault on Israel, targeting civilians and killing over 1,000 people, Israel’s response was swift, and it has been launching airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, the territory Hamas controls, ever since. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has now begun a ground incursion into the area to root out and kill Hamas terrorists.
However, critics of Israel argue that its response has been disproportionate and is harming Palestinian civilians and other noncombatants in the efforts to destroy Hamas. Biden has verbally declared support for Israel since the beginning of the conflict but has simultaneously cautioned its government to avoid civilian casualties and ensure that humanitarian aid makes it to those who need it. Now, certain Democrats are speaking out against Israel’s handling of the operation, which could signal a shift in the party in how it approaches the conflict.
President Biden’s steadfast support for Israel is facing increasing pressure as some of his staunch supporters from within his party are warning about the ways in which the Israeli response is being carried out.
Biden has resisted calls to join other Democrats who are seeking a cease-fire, and has largely avoided commenting on how Israel is carrying out a new phase in a war that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend warned “is going to be long and difficult.”
But in recent days, other Democrats have pointedly criticized the pace of humanitarian aid, a communications blackout and the rising death toll among Palestinian civilians. With one of the United States’ closest allies now steeling itself for a potentially prolonged conflict, they also raised concerns about whether Israel has clear and achievable objectives as it conducts a major ground assault.
In one recent move, a group of more than two dozen senators, including Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), called on Biden to work with Israel, Egypt, and the United Nations to deliver fuel into Gaza amid the humanitarian crisis.
The president’s recent phone call with Netanyahu highlighted the need for more humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza, and the criticisms from within his party have created new challenges for Biden, who might be held responsible for how Israel carries out its response given his declared support.
White House officials, like National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, insist they are working to hold Israel “accountable” and that they share some of the concerns voiced by Democrats. However, the situation on the ground remains complicated by the fact that Hamas operatives have intentionally hidden among civilians to use them as human shields. This has made it more difficult for Israel to prosecute its war against the terrorist group without causing collateral damage.
Moreover, the anti-Israel/pro-Hamas crowd has decried what has been characterized as a near-total internet blackout, which they attribute to Israel, though internet and phone service reportedly were restored Sunday.
From the beginning of the war, a group of Democrats represented by “The Squad” were already against Israel while giving Hamas the kid-glove treatment. Folks like Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) had already made their anti-Israel agenda clear.
However, most Democratic lawmakers expressed fervent support for the Jewish state, which makes this seeming shift among non-Squad members more noteworthy. If more Democrats begin to waiver in their support, this could, in turn, influence President Biden’s approach to the conflict. It will likely create a deeper rift in the party when it comes to the overall Israel/Palestinian conflict as well.