Biden faces pressure over Gaza conflict

2023-11-07 10:22:47China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Rejecting truce demand sparks concerns over reelection bid amid public outrage

From the United Nations to streets in major cities in the United States and in Europe, U.S. President Joe Biden is receiving mounting demands that he call for a cease-fire in Gaza as scenes of destruction fuel public outrage.

Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Biden have remained steadfast in rejecting a cease-fire amid the rising number of casualties, with the continued expansion of Israel's ground forces in Gaza and the growing risk of a wider regional conflict in the Middle East.

Biden has resisted calls for a cease-fire, saying that Israel has a right to defend its citizens but urging it to protect innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza who are victims of the conflict.

His refusal to call for a cease-fire is sparking concern about the possible political fallout in his own political party and outside of it. Proponents of a cease-fire argue that the Biden administration's stance may cost him core constituencies he will need to win next year.

Some Muslim and Arab American groups are threatening to withhold donations and votes toward Biden's 2024 reelection unless he takes immediate steps to secure a Gaza cease-fire.

Polls released on Sunday showed that Biden trails Trump in five of the six most important battleground states a year before the U.S. election. The U.S. citizens express doubts about Biden's age and dissatisfaction with his handling of the economy, according to the polls, which were conducted by The New York Times and Siena College.

On Monday last week, the National Muslim Democratic Council, representing "dedicated Democratic leaders from across the United States and battleground states" such as Pennsylvania and Michigan, issued an open letter demanding the Biden administration take action to secure a cease-fire.

"It has become evident that our voices are being ignored, but our votes will not be," the letter stated in closing. "Simply put, as Gaza turns red, so could crucial battleground states."

A poll released on Tuesday last week by the Arab American Institute found that Arab American support for Biden in the 2024 election has dropped to 17 percent, down from 59 percent in 2020, which the organization's president called "the most dramatic shift over the shortest period of time that I've ever seen".

Democrats in Congress have criticized the pace of humanitarian aid, a communications blackout and the rising toll among Palestinian civilians.

Thousands converged on the capital over the weekend to protest the Biden administration's support of Israel. Speakers denounced: "You have blood on your hands." Some vowed not to support Biden's bid for a second term in the White House next year as well as campaigns by other Democrats seeking office.

On Oct 19, a group of over two dozen Democratic senators, including Chris Murphy of Connecticut, called on Biden to work with Israel, Egypt and the UN to deliver fuel to Gaza amid the humanitarian crisis.

"We should support Israel's right to defend itself. Hamas must be held accountable," Murphy wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. "But if America is going to pay for a big portion of the war's cost, then of course we should care about the war plan. It would not be good to fund a plan that doesn't work."

Humanitarian aid

The group pressed the U.S. to contribute to the UN's appeal for $294 million in aid "to address the immediate humanitarian needs in the West Bank and Gaza".

One Democratic representative voiced concerns that Biden's position on the current fighting in Gaza could ultimately hurt him politically at home.

Pramila Jayapal of Washington State, a liberal ally who has backed Biden's reelection bid, said that she is worried that Biden risks being out of step with the broader U.S. electorate and losing support among the younger voters that he needs to mobilize for his reelection.

At a White House press briefing last week, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby acknowledged that Israeli forces may, at times, "fail to meet their own expectations about killing civilians".

Kirby said while the administration is asking Israel "hard questions" about its aims in going after Hamas, it is not "lecturing" Netanyahu when discussing the need for Israel to follow the rules of war.


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