columnU.S.-Israel Relations

Debate takeaways for Israel

The 2024 presidential race has always hinged on who it’s about.

U.S. President Joe Biden disembarks Air Force One at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in Manchester, N.H. on March 11, 2024. Credit: Adam Schultz/White House.
U.S. President Joe Biden disembarks Air Force One at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in Manchester, N.H. on March 11, 2024. Credit: Adam Schultz/White House.
Caroline B. Glick
Caroline B. Glick is the senior contributing editor of Jewish News Syndicate and host of the “Caroline Glick Show” on JNS. She is also the diplomatic commentator for Israel’s Channel 14, as well as a columnist for Newsweek. Glick is the senior fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Center for Security Policy in Washington and a lecturer at Israel’s College of Statesmanship.

There was nothing remotely surprising about U.S. President Joe Biden’s performance at the presidential debate in Atlanta on Thursday night. The doddering, muttering, angry and seemingly confused man staring emptily, with mouth agape who stood on the CNN debate stage was the same man who has shown up before the cameras nearly every day since Biden was sworn into office on Jan. 20, 2021.

The Democratic commentators on CNN and the other Democratic Party-aligned media could have pretended that there was nothing off about Biden’s performance. They have been doing that for the past three-and-a-half years. The question is why they chose to respond to the debate by unanimously panning his performance. Why did every single CNN commentator insist that Biden cannot continue as the Democratic candidate for president?

The second question is: What does this mean for Israel?

On the first question, it has been clear from the outset that American voters like neither former President Donald Trump nor Biden. The race has always hinged on who it’s about. Would it be a referendum on Trump or Biden? If it is a referendum on Biden, then Trump wins and vice-versa. Trump was leading going into the debate because until Thursday night, Biden’s efforts to make the race a referendum on Trump had come up short.

The commentators’ immediate condemnation of the president’s performance and the widespread reports of “panic” among the Democratic Party leadership from the first moments of the debate made clear that the party’s leadership decided that the race was indeed a referendum on Biden. If he is the candidate on the ballot in November, then Trump will be the next president.

Since the Democrats don’t want that, having made the race a referendum on Biden, the only move left is for Biden to be forced to step aside and for someone else to be selected as the party’s nominee at the Democratic convention in Chicago in late August.

Whether Biden’s replacement is former first lady Michelle Obama, California Gov. Gavin Newsom or Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, the nominee will immediately become the hands-down favorite to win in November. Untainted by the president’s baggage as an incumbent, his replacement will be able to make the race a referendum on Trump, and he or she will win.

Deep-seated hostility towards the Jewish state

This brings us to the second question. What difference will this make for Israel?

And how would a different Democratic president treat Israel?

In the case of Newsom or Shapiro, in all likelihood, their Israel policy would be a continuation of Biden’s. To the extent that Biden has become more hostile over time, they would continue on that trajectory. This is the case because Biden’s policies aren’t his personal preferences. His pro-Iran, pro-Palestinian policies are those of the Democratic Party’s foreign-policy establishment.

That establishment takes its cues from former President Barack Obama and current U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Every one of Biden’s Middle East advisors served in the Obama administration. Blinken, who owes his position to his longstanding service to Biden—first when Biden was in the Senate and then as vice president—shares Obama’s sympathies for Iran and the Palestinians, in addition to his hostility towards Israel.

If Newsom or Shapiro—or any other Democrat—is selected to serve as party nominee by the party bosses who control the convention, then he will owe his position to the party bosses that put him there, not to voters. They have no independent source of power to draw from if they oppose the policies that Obama’s party establishment expects them to adopt. And so, they can be expected to continue down the road of progressively more anti-Israel policies that Biden is on now.

Since she served as first lady, Michelle Obama showed herself to be even more hostile towards Israel than her husband. After Oct. 7, she ignored pleas from the Israeli government, from Israeli victims, from hostages’ families and from Jewish Democrats to condemn the mass rape of Israeli women by Hamas and the atrocities that the terror group and ordinary Palestinians committed. Former President Obama, for his part, issued a statement after Oct. 7 that focused more on warning Israel not to retaliate in a manner that would harm Palestinians than on supporting Israel in its war for national survival.

The Obamas’ deep-seated hostility towards the Jewish state is exposed not only by their statements but by the company they keep. A week after Hamas’s invasion, The Washington Free Beacon reported that Misha Euceph, a producer of the Obama family’s various podcast series, denied on her social-media accounts that Hamas raped Israeli women and girls. Among other things, she wrote, “The more I’ve been thinking about it, the more I’m realizing—and I think a lot of other people are, too—that these reports and statements about rape and murder of babies are completely unverified, and they actually feed into Islamophobic tropes that we’re not talking about at all.”

The upshot for Israel is that if Biden is replaced, his replacement will become the favorite to win in November. And if that happens, Israel can assume that it will either see a continuation of Biden’s policies or face a Michelle Obama administration whose policies and rhetoric will likely be more unapologetically and openly hostile than anything Israel has experienced to date.

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