Israel war: Hamas terrorist attack put Democratic support for ally to the test

Israel war: Hamas terrorist attack put Democratic support for ally to the test

October 10, 2023 10:09 AM

There has been an outpouring of support from both sides of the aisle in the United States since Hamas attacked Israel, but eyes are on the Democratic Party to see how long the support for one of America’s strongest allies lasts.

Several Democrats have joined most Republicans in condemning the terrorist attack and expressing full support for Israel’s right to fight back. Some Democrats, such as “Squad” members Reps. Cori Bush (D-MO) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), are calling for a broader return to order and peace on both sides and an end to the “apartheid” government in Israel.


Democratic support for Israel may not be unlimited, particularly in the aftermath of Israel’s response to Hamas. The Israeli government ordered a “total siege” of Gaza, cutting off its population of nearly 2 million from access to electricity, food, and fuel on Monday.

“We are fighting human animals, and we are acting accordingly,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said.

This decision has angered those on the fringes of the House Democratic Caucus, causing swift rebukes from more centrist members of their party. President Joe Biden and members of his administration have also declared that Israel has a right to defend itself and the U.S. will offer additional aid in the coming days.

The Israel Embassy to the U.S. reported on early Tuesday that the death toll among Israelis has surpassed 1,008, with more than 3,400 people injured. Palestinian authorities said at least 765 people have died and 4,000 others have been injured in Gaza since Saturday, via ABC News.

The conflict between Palestine and Israel has long divided public opinion, with Democrats split over which side they lean toward. A Gallup poll from March found that Democrats’ sympathies have shifted to “lie more with Palestinians than the Israelis, 49% versus 38%.”

Some Democrats are already receiving criticism and backlash for their Palestinian support, dating back to their boycott of the Israeli president’s joint address to Congress earlier this year.

Tlaib, who is the only Palestinian American in Congress, was criticized on Tuesday for keeping a Palestinian flag hanging outside her House office in the Capitol. Many said it was an insult to the Israelis who died in the Hamas attacks, while others argued the flag represents her heritage and should not need to come down — it has stood outside her office through at least the majority of this Congress.

It is unclear how future votes on aid to Israel will pan out in terms of Democratic support.

With a majority of House Democrats condemning the attacks on Israel, it appears likely that a bill providing aid to Israel would pass, given overwhelming Republican support for the country. However, the absence of a House speaker will significantly limit the chamber’s ability to respond to international crises such as this.

Centrist Republicans have floated the idea of reinstating Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as speaker, who was ousted by all House Democrats and eight Republicans. While most Democrats say they would never vote for a Republican speaker, in light of the increasing demand for aid, chances are slim but possible that Democrats could work across the aisle to speed up the process of selecting a new leader.

A Democratic congressman told Politico Playbook that the views shared by those such as Bush and Tlaib remain on the fringe but could easily spread — a similar outcome with Ukraine aid, as skeptics went from the GOP’s fringe to its mainstream caucus.

“Everyone just presumes that they’re going to play to type and say what they’re going to say. I don’t think anyone’s surprised about that. The key is making sure that it doesn’t grow and metastasize,” he said to Politico. “The question is, a week from now or five days from now, what are we looking at when the counterassault begins in earnest?”

Additional aid to Israel may not be on the table just yet. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday night that there is currently enough money.

“We have existing authorities and existing appropriations to continue to support Israel,” Kirby said. “If we need — and it’s an if — if we need to go back to Capitol Hill for additional funding support for Israel, we will absolutely do that.”


Nevertheless, the fact that 11 Americans were killed and an undetermined number have likely been taken hostage makes the attacks an American crisis, which could be a factor in maintaining Democratic support.

“This is personal for many of my colleagues,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) told the New York Times. “We know Israelis who have been killed and know Americans who have stayed in the homes of Israelis who were taken hostage. We are angered by the innocent Americans who were killed. There will be overwhelming support for Israel to defend against this act of terrorism much like the world was united behind America after 9/11.”