May 24, 2024

Biden defended his decision by telling CNN, “Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs and other ways in which they go after population centers.” The Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in Gaza estimates that roughly 35,000 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 80,000 injured since Israel’s incursion began. This did not impress The Wall Street Journal’s editors, who attacked what they ridiculously termed Biden’s “arms embargo” against Israel. It also inspired the interesting insistence by a number of Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and others, that it’s none of America’s business what Israel does with its weapons we supply it with. (“We stand by allies, we don’t second guess them,” was the way Mitt Romney put it in a tweet.) Similarly, it goes without saying that the leadership of the “legacy” Jewish organizations were similarly outraged, treating Biden’s announcement as if he said he was going to join the pro-Palestinian encampment at Columbia. Biden’s action “emboldens Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah, and undermines America’s commitments to all our allies,” AIPAC complained.

The response from Biden’s own party was, per usual, deeply divided. Twenty-six House Democrats signed a letter of complaint with all the trademarks of AIPAC letters of the past. Some of the party’s biggest donors were also, to no one’s shock, sufficiently upset to speak up in naked political terms. Haim Saban, one of the party’s biggest funders, emailed White House staffers, in a note that somehow made its way into the media, complaining of Biden’s “Bad, Bad, Bad, decision, on all levels,” and somehow felt it necessary to remind them that “there are more Jewish voters, who care about Israel, than Muslim voters that care about Hamas.”

Biden did receive some support from the likes of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for what members of the party’s liberal base and activists have long agitated for. Senator Chris van Hollen, who has been the unlikely leader of these forces, told Face the Nation that he supported Biden’s decision in light of the fact that “Netanyahu has repeatedly ignored the president of the United States, ignored the president’s efforts to try to reduce civilian casualties, ignored our efforts to try to get more humanitarian assistance into Gaza and ignored the priority of trying to bring back the hostages.”