OpinionU.S.-Israel Relations

Biden’s not-so-ironclad support

It was hardly coincidental that he announced his intention to limit weapons to Israel while campaigning in the heavily Arab-American state of Michigan.

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks at an event with bipartisan mayors attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting in the East Room of the White House on Jan. 19, 2024. Credit: Adam Schultz/White House.
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks at an event with bipartisan mayors attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting in the East Room of the White House on Jan. 19, 2024. Credit: Adam Schultz/White House.
Jerold S. Auerbach
Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of 12 books, including Print to Fit: The New York Times, Zionism and Israel (1896-2016) and Israel 1896-2016, selected for Mosaic by Ruth Wisse and Martin Kramer as a “Best Book for 2019.”

History occasionally repeats itself. Forty years ago, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin sharply rebuked then Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.): “Don’t threaten us with cutting off aid to give up our principles. We will defend them. And, when necessary, we will die for them, with or without your aid.”

Ever since, Biden missed few opportunities to challenge or criticize Israel. In a Foreign Relations Committee hearing in 2004, he said that Israel must abandon most of its settlements in biblical Judea and Samaria. Visiting Israel, he condemned government plans to build housing units in eastern Jerusalem, where Arabs comprised a majority of the population.

A decade later, after Hamas and the Palestinian Authority formed a unity government, Vice President Biden supported a two-state solution. He was convinced that “the vast majority of Israelis and the vast majority of Palestinians believe … that peace is possible, peace is necessary, and peace is just.” At an Israeli Independence Day celebration in 2015, he proudly claimed: “Everybody knows I love Israel.” But his “love” was limited and short-lived.

Two years later, after a terrorist bomb injured more than 20 Israelis riding on a bus, Biden responded by blaming the Israeli government for undermining the peace process. He believed that “the steady and systematic expansion of settlements, legalizing outposts, seizing land is eroding, in my view, the prospect of a two-state solution and … moving Israel in the wrong direction … toward a one-state reality, and that reality is dangerous.”

Biden is nothing if not a waffler. During his 2020 presidential campaign, he promised that “given the serious threats that Israelis face,” he would not condition aid to the Jewish state. He insisted that his support for Israel “is rock-solid and unwavering.” Following the Hamas massacre on Oct. 7, he promised: “We must be crystal-clear. We stand with Israel. And we will make sure Israel has what it needs to take care of its citizens, defend itself and respond to this attack.” He assured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of his “ironclad commitment to Israel’s security.”

Over time, however, his “rock-solid and unwavering” support faded away. His discomfort with Israel increased, and he stopped standing with the Jewish state. In a recent CNN interview, he threatened to withhold shipments of powerful American bombs to Israel if it invades the city of Rafah—the last Hamas stronghold in Gaza—where its leaders hide for survival in underground tunnels. He warned that if Israel went into Rafah, “I’ve made it clear to Bibi and the war cabinet [that] they’re not going to get our support, if in fact they go on these population centers.” Last week, the White House confirmed a delay in the transfer of 3,500 bombs weighing 2,000 pounds and 500 pounds to Jerusalem over concern that the Israel Defense Forces would use them in densely populated Rafah.

Biden’s “unwavering” support for Israel is clearly wavering under pressure from leftist anti-Israel voters who pose a threat to his re-election. His concern is evident that support for Israel is likely to cost him the backing of young, progressive and Arab-American voters, especially in Michigan, with its strong pro-Palestinian population. It was hardly coincidental that he announced his intention to limit weapons to be sent to Israel while campaigning there.

Biden has come a long way since his 2010 visit to Israel as vice president, when he said: “The instant I return, I feel like I’m at home. I feel like I never left.”

He attributed Israel’s “remarkable and yet improbable success” to its “democratic traditions, to its patriotic and pioneering citizens, and as with my own country, to its willingness to welcome the persecuted and the downtrodden from far-flung corners of the globe.” The United States, he vowed, “stands resolutely beside Israel against the scourge of terrorism.”

Now, however, Biden stands resolutely behind Israel, pushing it to comply with his political needs.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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