Biden backs Israel, but US criticism is mounting
Published on: Amended:
As it has for decades, Israel relied on the United States as a diplomatic shield in its latest crisis. But in the past, the unwavering support of the United States seems increasingly precarious as calls multiply from the left to advance Palestinian rights.
With the violence that killed more than 200 people, mostly Palestinians, entering a second week, Israel has emerged as rarely before as a partisan issue in Washington with members of former President Donald Trump’s Republican Party bragging about support. flawless Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. .
President Joe Biden’s line has been consistent with previous Democratic administrations – no public daylight with Israel but diplomatic efforts to restore calm.
Biden’s approach has won praise from Israel, but in few other places.
Even Senator Bob Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, considered a reliable pro-Israel Democratic voice, said on Saturday he was “deeply disturbed” by the Israeli strikes on Gaza that killed civilians and destroyed media offices, calling for “a full assessment”. “
Senator Bernie Sanders, Biden’s main left-wing challenger for the Democratic presidential nomination last year, called the devastation “unacceptable” and, in a threat once taboo in Washington, said on Sunday that the United States should throw a “critical look” at the nearly $ 4 billion in military aid it provides to Israel each year.
Israel has always enjoyed the support of Democrats, in part due to the party’s status as a privileged home for American Jews and Israel’s socialist roots.
But Sanders and other American progressives have come to view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the prism of broader movements for social justice, especially as Netanyahu clings to power through an alliance with the far right. .
In a New York Times opinion piece, Sanders wrote that Netanyahu has “cultivated an increasingly intolerant and authoritarian type of racist nationalism” and ended with the phrase: “The lives of Palestinians matter.”
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the most prominent progressive Democrats, called for action against Israeli “apartheid” – a term that infuriates Israel but has recently been supported by Human Rights Watch, which has stated that it was government policy to maintain Jewish rule. The Israelis at the expense of the Palestinians.
“The president and many other prominent figures said this week that Israel has the right to defend itself,” Ocasio-Cortez told the House Thursday.
“But do the Palestinians have the right to survive? Do we believe this? And if so, we have a responsibility in this regard.”
– Biden at odds with the party –
Israel launched the offensive after Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza, began firing rockets at the Jewish state in what it said was a response to Israeli movements in Jerusalem.
Logan Bayroff of J Street, a progressive pro-Israel group, said there was growing recognition that Israeli actions, including the expulsion of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, were contributing to the crisis.
“You see a much greater willingness across a broad spectrum of the Democratic Party to criticize not only the Hamas rockets – and Hamas is involved in this – but also the policies of the Israeli government,” said Bayroff, vice president of communications. of the group.
“This forms a pretty stark contrast to how the Biden administration unfortunately seems to be on a different page in a way that frankly hasn’t been tailored to the severity of the crisis,” he said. .
The Biden administration has not explicitly called for a ceasefire and has so far blocked a statement to the UN Security Council three times in a week, saying it could be counterproductive.
Bayroff said the change in opinion was also due to Netanyahu’s “disrespect” for the last Democratic president, Barack Obama, the Israeli leader openly rallying Republicans against a denuclearization deal with Iran.
Americans still view Israel extremely positively, according to a Gallup poll in February, but 34% called for more pressure on Israel to resolve the conflict, the highest since the question was asked in 2007.
In a Pew poll this year, more than half of American Jews gave Netanyahu negative ratings and nearly two-thirds expressed optimism about coexistence with a Palestinian state.
Much of the Hawks’ support for Israel comes not from American Jews but from the Christian right, where some see Biblical justifications for promoting the Jewish state.
A Republican, Sen. Todd Young, has joined calls for a ceasefire, but much of the party has either accused Biden of insufficient support for Israel or accused left-wing Democrats of siding on the side of Hamas, designated by Washington as a terrorist group.
“There is no moral equivalence between Israel and Hamas,” said Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy, promising that “the United States stands unequivocally alongside our ally Israel and the United States. Jewish people “.
© 2021 AFP