OpinionIsrael at War

Team Biden unfairly scapegoats Netanyahu to please left flank

It is not Netanyahu’s job to conduct the war in Gaza in a way that will help Biden get re-elected.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with U.S. President Joe Biden in New York, Sept. 20. 2023. Credit: Cameron Smith/Official White House photo.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with U.S. President Joe Biden in New York, Sept. 20. 2023. Credit: Cameron Smith/Official White House photo.
Jason Shvili
Jason Shvili
Jason Shvili is a contributing editor at Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.

President Biden has found many opportunities to criticize Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war strategy in the Gaza Strip—seemingly to placate his progressive wing and especially radical, anti-Israel voters, whom Biden sees as key to saving his foundering re-election campaign. In an interview with Spanish-language broadcaster Univision, for example, he panned Netanyahu’s handling of the war, saying, “I think what he’s doing is a mistake. I don’t agree with his approach.”

The injustice of scapegoating Netanyahu is, he’s implementing the will of most Israelis and following a strategy even his opponents largely bless. 

Unfairly, Netanyahu has become a convenient target not only for the Biden administration, but also for leftists in his party. For example, U.S. Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer, in a speech on March 14, claimed Netanyahu was an “obstacle to peace” who has “lost his way.” Schumer also brazenly called on Israelis to elect a new leader, based on the belief that a different Israeli prime minister would be more receptive to Team Biden’s way of doing things. 

This anti-Netanyahu sentiment is also voiced by many liberal-minded American Jews, who “love Israel” but consider Netanyahu’s duly elected government deeply flawed. Such a belief ignores or misunderstands the temper of the Israeli people in these trying times. 

Surely, many valid criticisms can be and have been leveled at Netanyahu. However, his current policies on the conduct of the Gaza war are supported by a wide majority of Israelis, including the use of military pressure to secure the release of hostages held by the Hamas terrorist group and the rejection of a two-state solution. 

Ironically, it seems that whenever Netanyahu does implement policies to placate the Biden administration, they tend to contradict the wishes of large swaths of Israeli voters. Thus, he has allowed generous humanitarian aid into Gaza, delayed finishing off Hamas in Rafah and refused the demand of his far-right coalition partners to re-establish Jewish communities in the coastal enclave. 

Even if someone other than Netanyahu were Israel’s prime minister, Israel’s policies would not likely change, since they are supported by the majority of Israeli voters as well as key players in the government, including opposition leaders. Moreover, Netanyahu is the democratically-elected leader of the Jewish state—one of America’s greatest and most trusted allies. Team Biden’s open attacks on him are unseemly, inappropriate and counterproductive.

President Biden undeservedly uses Netanyahu as a scapegoat in a ploy to gain political points. Back in March for example, he criticized the Israeli prime minister’s policy in Gaza, saying it’s “a big mistake and I want to see a ceasefire.” Comments like this supposedly “balance” the U.S.-Israel relationship and help Biden win radical, anti-Israel voters. 

But the president has also tried to win over liberal Jewish voters by criticizing Netanyahu, knowing that while most American Jews strongly support Israel, they don’t necessarily support its leader. Indeed, according to a poll conducted by the Jewish Electorate Institute in early November, just 31% of American Jewish voters have a favorable view of Netanyahu. Thus, Biden has accused the Israeli premier of “hurting Israel more than helping Israel,” and said that Netanyahu’s policies in Gaza are “contrary to what Israel stands for,” implying that he is not criticizing Israel itself, just its leader. 

While Netanyahu isn’t very popular with Israeli voters right now, his policies on the war in Gaza are. Netanyahu was unpopular with the Israeli public long before Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza began, mainly due to corruption allegations and his attempts to reform the country’s justice system. But the primary reason Netanyahu is viewed with scorn by the Israeli public now is the perceived failure of him and his government to foresee and prevent the atrocities of Oct. 7. Not surprisingly, the latest polls show that Netanyahu would likely not be re-elected if elections were held now. 

Nevertheless, most Israelis still support how Netanyahu is conducting the war in Gaza. For instance, he has always insisted that military pressure is the best way to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas. Most Israelis polled—81.5%—agree. A majority of Israelis also agree with Netanyahu’s stance on what should happen in Gaza after the war is over. This includes 55.4% of Israelis who somewhat or strongly oppose the creation of a “demilitarized” Palestinian state. In addition, although Team Biden wants a “reformed” Palestinian Authority to rule Gaza after the war, a resounding majority of 81% of Israelis agree with Netanyahu that the P.A. will not reform. 

Netanyahu has, at times, implemented policies that go against the wishes of the Israeli majority—in deference to President Biden. For instance, over the course of the war, the Israeli leader has bowed to the demands of the U.S. president and allowed more and more aid into the Gaza Strip, despite the fact that 72% of Israelis oppose allowing aid into the territory until the hostages are released. Moreover, inasmuch as Chuck Schumer and other members of Team Biden accuse Netanyahu of being too beholden to far-right factions in his government, the Israeli prime minister has actually held these groups in check—for one, by shutting down any idea that Israel will resettle Jews in Gaza after the war.

Team Biden’s accusations against Netanyahu are unfair and misplaced, not to mention unbecoming for an ally at war. Polls show Netanyahu is simply carrying out the wishes of Israel’s voters, the majority of whom don’t want a two-state solution that would reward Palestinian terrorism, or a ceasefire that would leave Hamas in charge of Gaza and would not lead to the release of hostages.

It is not Netanyahu’s job to conduct the war in Gaza in a way that will help Biden get re-elected. The prime minister is accountable primarily to Israeli voters, who expect him to conduct the war aggressively. Based on current polls, that’s exactly what he’s doing.

Originally published by Facts and Logic About the Middle East.

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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