After Israel's weapons transfer on Rafah, Biden was fired from all sides.


President Biden's decision to freeze arms shipments to Israel is his most dramatic move yet in the Gaza war — and it won't please anyone.

Republicans have criticized the decision, accusing Biden of abandoning Israel. Former President Trump made the argument, as did several GOP senators at a news conference on the issue Thursday.

Israeli politicians have voiced their displeasure — though the importance of this to US domestic politics is questionable given the growing distaste among the American public for military operations directed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government. Is.

Prominent figures on the left welcomed Biden's decision, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.).

But Sanders argued that the weapons delay should be the “first step” toward a shift toward more vigorous opposition to “Netanyahu's horrific war against the Palestinian people.”

In an interview with CNN this week, Biden said that if Israel goes ahead with an all-out assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, “we will not provide weapons and artillery shells.”

The shipment intercepted included 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs — ordnance that would cause massive destruction and guarantee significant casualties, all but in built-up areas.

This issue is actually a matter of life and death. But politics is also very complicated.

Biden looks set to increase his tolerance of Israel, though that could change if Netanyahu pushes ahead in Rafah, where more than a million Palestinians have been sheltered.

Biden's earlier, stronger support for Israel's actions may mean the die has already been cast with some voters. This is especially true of young people, progressives and black voters – demographic groups that are more sympathetic to the Palestinians.

Polling highlights the dilemma. An Economist/YouGov poll released this week found a clear majority of Americans sympathized with Israel (32 percent) than Palestinians (15 percent), while 30 percent said they sympathized with both sides. were equally sympathetic and 23 percent said they were not. Not sure

But the picture is reversed among adults under 30, who sympathize with the Palestinians by more than 2 to 1. Democrats and black Americans also support the Palestinians over the Israelis.

Many of these voters have backed Biden in response to the seven-month Israeli assault on Gaza that has killed nearly 35,000 Palestinians, displaced nearly 80 percent of the population and created a humanitarian crisis. .

Cindy McCain, head of the World Food Program and widow of 2008 GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), recently described the situation in northern Gaza as a “total famine.”

The Israeli attack is retaliation for Hamas attacks on October 7, which killed more than 1,100 people, mostly civilians. About 250 hostages were taken, of which about 100 are estimated to be still alive.

State Department spokesman Matt Miller, asked at The Hill's media briefing on Thursday about criticism that Biden should have acted earlier to rein in Israel, said:

“Our policy responds to the realities on the ground. We made it clear at the beginning of this conflict that we want Israel to defeat Hamas. We want Israel to eliminate Hamas and resume the terrorist attacks of October 7. They have largely succeeded in preventing the ability to do so.”

But Miller added, “We're also responding to the increasing number of civilian casualties and while we've seen a decrease in the daily toll — due to the Israeli actions that we've been pushing for — it's not enough. has not diminished.”

Such answers indicate the complicated knot Biden is trying to unravel.

His own commitment to Israel — he has sometimes called himself a Zionist — clashes with an activist base that is deeply skeptical of Netanyahu.

If Biden moves toward his party's more pro-Palestinian side, he alienates his pro-Israel counterparts and leaves himself open to accusations from Republicans of being “soft” on terrorism.

If he doesn't, he could fuel more internal divisions among Democrats and fuel campus protests that have recently spread across the U.S. in November elections, such as the one in Chicago in August. There is a possibility of a breakdown in the upcoming Democratic National Convention.

As if all that weren't complicated enough, Biden has to contend with the fact that Netanyahu heads a coalition government that is almost universally seen as the most right-wing in the history of the state of Israel. .

In the wake of Biden's weapons announcement, Israeli National Security Minister Atmar Ben Gower posted a tweet containing three letters: “Hamas,” a heart symbol and “Biden.” Ben Gower has previous criminal convictions for inciting racism and supporting a terrorist organisation. He received a clear rebuke from Israeli President Isaac Herzog for his tweet.

Those complications don't unduly worry Biden's GOP critics. On Thursday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) claimed that Biden's “de facto position is for the victory of Hamas over Israel.”

Many on the left have dismissed the controversy as absurd, noting Biden's strong support for the foreign aid package passed by Congress last month that provided nearly $17 billion for Israel. Aid was provided.

There is no sign of events on the ground that will help Biden get out of the political fix he finds himself in.

Ceasefire talks in Cairo have broken down in recent days without an agreement. According to reports, Israeli forces are putting more pressure in Rafah.

And on Friday, a belated State Department report on Israel's conduct in Gaza came out.

The document found that it was “reasonable to assess” that Israel had violated international law in Gaza. Yet it also found that it is “difficult to assess individual incidents or reach definitive conclusions”—a caveat that addresses obstacles to ongoing military aid.

It seemed like another instance where the Biden administration gave almost everyone a basis for complaint.

The Memo is a reported column by Neil Stange.

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