Israel war: Biden faces his latest international and political crisis

Israel war: Biden faces his latest international and political crisis

October 10, 2023 05:00 AM

Hamas‘s deadly terrorist attacks in Israel and Israel’s forceful reprisals in Gaza present President Joe Biden with personal and political challenges as he grapples with the war.

The conflict coincides with concerns regarding Biden’s foreign policy, particularly his distant relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and problematic approach to Iran, amid Republican opposition to Ukraine funding and Democratic division over Israel.


Hamas’s terrorist attacks and widespread kidnappings are “already putting the Biden policy toward Iran … under a microscope,” according to Foundation for Defense of Democracies senior adviser Richard Goldberg. Goldberg particularly criticized last month’s U.S.-Iran prisoner swap, which included five people per side and Biden unfreezing $6 billion in Iranian money.

“Iran is the primary sponsor of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad,” Goldberg told the Washington Examiner. “That this attack came after the administration [released] billions of dollars for Iran’s use is not a coincidence.”

Joe Biden, Antony Blinken
FILE – President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with his Cabinet in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Oct. 2, 2023.

Susan Walsh/AP

“There will be growing pressure on the White House to reverse its policy of appeasement toward Tehran and start locking down all available funds for the mullahs and their proxies,” he said. “And that’s why you are seeing the White House spin so hard trying to distance Iran from the massacre.”

Retired Army Col. Rich Outzen, an Atlantic Council senior fellow, agreed Hamas’s terrorist attacks, including targeting Nova Festival attendees, and Israel’s retaliatory strikes, which have altogether killed more than 1,500 people so far, “represent a serious setback” for Biden’s Middle East policy. The Vandenberg Coalition advisory board member described the president’s Mideast policy as “incentivizing Iran and encouraging Saudi-Israel reconciliation while deprioritizing the region overall.”

“All three lobes of this policy have taken a major blow: the first because Iran appears to have played a significant role in planning and resourcing the attacks, the second because the fallout from the ongoing Israeli counteroffensive will strain Israel’s standing in the Gulf and among Arab and Muslim populations regionally and globally, the third because Israel’s security has again been put into question and vaulted to the top of mind for average Americans, who retain positive views and willingness to support Israel,” Outzen said.

“Biden will be squeezed between progressives in his party and voter base who seek to blame Israel for the violence and legitimize Hamas’s actions as ‘resistance’ on one hand and more moderate representatives and donors who understand the political risks of trying to be equidistant in this round of conflict,” he added. founder and Cornell Law School professor William Jacobson similarly underscored Biden’s “domestic political problem” because the “progressive left wing of the Democratic Party [had] turned on Israel long before the current conflict.”

“If Biden sticks with traditional American support for and of Israel, he will alienate the most activist wing of his party,” he said. “The people in the streets chanting ‘Free Palestine‘ and the genocidal ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ are the Democrat base.”

More broadly, American Enterprise Institute foreign and defense policy senior fellow Danielle Pletka broached the domestic and international perception of Biden as “weak” and how “weakness spawns its own consequences.” Pletka recommended that the president first “support Israel in its rescue of American and other hostages.”

“Provide Israel the weapons it needs, suspend aid to the [Palestine Authority], end the undeclared dialogue with the Iranian regime, [and] consider adding Lebanon and Qatar to the state sponsors of terrorism list,” she said.

Former President Donald Trump, the presumptive 2024 Republican nominee, is spearheading GOP criticism of Biden over Israel and Iran. Trump condemned Biden during a rally Monday in New Hampshire for betraying Israel, promising to “once again stand strongly” Israel if he wins next year’s election.

“When I was your president, we had peace through strength, and now we have weakness, conflict, and chaos,” he said. “The atrocities we’re witnessing in Israel would never have happened if I was president.”

“When I was commander in chief, we reduced the Iranian economy to rubble. I withdrew from the disastrous Iran nuclear deal, imposed the toughest-ever sanctions on the regime, and imposed a strict travel ban to keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country,” he continued. “Joe Biden undid it all and gave billions and billions of dollars to the world’s top sponsor of terror, tossing Israel to the bloodthirsty terrorists and jihadists.”

With Biden’s foreign policy approval rating averaging net negative 17 percentage points, the Democratic National Committee has tried to counter the criticism by scrutinizing Sen. Tommy Tuberville‘s (R-AL) military nomination and promotion holds over the Pentagon‘s abortion access policy. The Democratic Party’s political machine contended Tuberville is undermining “military readiness as our ally deals with the aftermath of a deadly attack” in an email to reporters.

“2024 Republicans have spent months cheering Tuberville on, so here’s a question for the MAGA extremists hoping to become commander in chief: Do you still stand by Tuberville’s military blockade?” the DNC asked late Sunday. “Tuberville’s fellow MAGA extremists on the presidential campaign trail know the consequences of his petty political stunt.”

Biden was briefed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, national security adviser Jake Sullivan, and others Monday morning before his aides called a “lid,” indicating he would not take part in any more public appearances that day, before noon. The president did deliver an address Sunday in the State Dining Room, has been coordinating support with international counterparts, and published multiple statements, including when the U.S. death toll rose to 11 people.


“It’s heart wrenching,” he wrote Monday. “While we are still working to confirm, we believe it is likely that American citizens may be among those being held by Hamas.”

“The United States and the State of Israel are inseparable partners, and I affirmed to Prime Minister Netanyahu again when we spoke [Sunday] that the United States will continue to make sure Israel has what it needs to defend itself and its people,” he said.