OpinionU.S.-Israel Relations

Will Biden’s patience run out?

If the fighting expands in Rafah, the president might significantly reduce military aid to Israel and even demand a ceasefire.

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address at the Capitol building in Washington, March 7, 2024. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address at the Capitol building in Washington, March 7, 2024. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Michael Oren
Michael Oren

A U.S. president’s State of the Union address is always a festive event, but this year the speech was different. Along with the need to disabuse people of the growing claims that he was too old to serve another term as president, Joe Biden had to contend with the explosive issue of Gaza. 

Even before the speech, pro-Palestinian protesters, who called him “Genocide Joe,” delayed his way to the Capitol building. Inside, the Palestinian-American lawmaker Rashida Tlaib came to the evening wrapped in a keffiyeh, while above her, in the visitors’ gallery, sat the released hostage Mia Schem, along with the families of Israelis still being held by Hamas.

The speech came after weeks in which the president and his senior staff had repeatedly accused Israel of indiscriminately bombing Gaza, treating its civilian population inhumanely, and causing the death of “too many Palestinians.” 

Such accusations are blatantly unfounded and support those who accuse Israel of war crimes. They also helped convince Hamas chief in Gaza Yahya Sinwar that he just needs to hold out because ultimately the president will demand a ceasefire.

The president did not retract any of these accusations, but rather doubled down on them and referred to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza as “gut-wrenching.” Israel also has a fundamental responsibility to protect innocent civilians in Gaza,” he declared, earning the evening’s loudest applause. 

He warned Israel not to use aid to Palestinian civilians as bargaining chips and said 30,000 have died—the figure quoted by Hamas. Therefore, Biden stressed, the administration was working relentlessly to achieve a ceasefire and ensure the release of the captives.

What are the key takeaways for Israel?

The U.S. military will build a “floating pier” to bring food and aid to Gaza by sea, but without deploying American troops on the ground. The question of how these shipments will reach the residents was left unanswered.

On the other hand, on the pro-Israel side, the president reiterated Hamas’s crimes and Israel’s right to defend itself. While Biden’s criticism of Israel satisfied the progressives in his party and Arab and Muslim Americans, it seems his statements supporting Israel helped assuage an equal number of Israel supporters.

What can be inferred from Biden’s speech? Despite the administration’s efforts to provide ammunition to the IDF and prevent the U.N. from imposing a ceasefire on Israel—gestures that have been politically costly to Biden—the administration’s patience with Israel is wearing thin.

The administration in Washington is not one person, it’s thousands who could lose their livelihoods due to the president’s support for Israel. It is quite possible that if the fighting expands to Rafah, the president will decide to significantly reduce military aid to Israel and even demand a ceasefire.

Therefore, Israel must continue to work to debunk the administration’s false claims and continue to explain to the world that the meaning of a ceasefire is a victory for terror and a death blow to Israel. Most important—the IDF must continue fighting until Hamas’s total defeat, even, if necessary, with stones and sticks.

Michael Oren is a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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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