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Republicans and Democrats are displeased with Biden's Israel shift


President Biden's supporters argue that the threat to condition military assistance is insufficient, while a Republican senator accuses him of using the hostage discussions to boost Hamas's position "to help his polls in Michigan."


The recent call by US President Joe Biden for Israel to address the humanitarian situation in Gaza and promote a ceasefire has sparked criticism from both disappointed political allies, who argue that the president's actions were insufficient, and opponents, who claim that he overstepped his boundaries.


During a call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, President Biden expressed his concerns about the ongoing offensive in Gaza against Hamas. He emphasised the importance of taking concrete steps to protect aid workers and civilians, hinting at the possibility of conditioning US support on these measures.


In an unprecedented move, President Biden, known for his unwavering support of Israel, has taken a stance to utilise US aid as a means to influence the actions of the Israeli military.


The president is facing significant pressure from within his party to take further action in response to the humanitarian crisis affecting Palestinian civilians as a result of the intense conflict in Gaza. This pressure comes almost six months after the October 7 Hamas terror attacks that sparked the war.


There must not be an unrestricted and unlimited authorization. Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, expressed concern over what he sees as a pattern of the Netanyahu government disregarding the president of the United States and increasing the deployment of 2,000-pound bombs, in an interview.


According to Van Hollen, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden needs to increase his public statements regarding the US expectations for the campaign in Gaza. Additionally, Van Hollen suggests that Biden should adopt a different strategy at the UN Security Council, rather than preventing resolutions that criticise Israel.


Other left-leaning politicians had similar complaints.


“One day the president is ‘angry’ at Netanyahu, the next day he is ‘very angry,’ the next day he is ‘very, very angry.’ So what? At the same time there is support for more military aid (to Israel) in a supplemental bill,” Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said on the Pod Save America podcast on Thursday.


You cannot continue to talk about your worries about [a] humanitarian situation in Gaza and then give Netanyahu another $10 billion, or more bombs. You cannot do that. That is hypocritical,” he said.


Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said there should be an immediate ceasefire. “I do not believe that opening up a new crossing into Gaza is enough,” he said on MSNBC on Friday.


Israel has said it approved the reopening of the Erez crossing into northern Gaza and the temporary use of Ashdod Port in southern Israel, following the US demands to increase humanitarian aid supplies into Gaza.


Republicans, hostage families


While many Democrats criticized Biden for not going far enough, some Republicans, who have generally been more supportive of military aid for Israel, lashed out at Biden for his change in tactic.


Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas accused Biden of making the shift to aid his reelection chances. “To help his polls in Michigan, Joe Biden just strengthened Hamas’s negotiating position. He effectively encouraged Hamas to hold out and not release the hostages. Shameful,” Cotton said on X on Friday.


The Republican-led House Rules Committee announced on Friday that it would consider a resolution that “opposes efforts to place one-sided pressure on Israel concerning Gaza, including calls for an immediate ceasefire,” citing Biden’s statement and his administration’s decision not to use its UN Security Council veto to block a resolution calling for a ceasefire.


Families of hostages taken by Hamas on October 7 said a push for a ceasefire without their release could be dangerous.


“A ceasefire with no deal, or even a partial deal, could be a death sentence for our son and other hostages,” Orna Neutra, mother of Omer Neutra, said Friday at a news conference with other hostage families in New York City.


‘Biden always had that leverage’


The White House declined to spell out how US policy would change if Israel did not meet Biden’s demands.


Israel has received more US foreign aid than any other country since World War II, although annual assistance has been dwarfed for two years by funding and military equipment sent to Ukraine since Russia’s 2022 invasion.


The United States has traditionally shielded Israel in the UN Security Council and vetoed three draft resolutions on the war in Gaza. It has also abstained three times to allow the 15-member council to take action — most recently last month when it demanded an immediate ceasefire.


Israel took action right after Biden put his foot down, others noted, suggesting it should have happened sooner.


Within hours of Biden threatening to suspend US military aid to Israel, Netanyahu agrees to open a major crossing for humanitarian aid into northern Gaza, where starvation is widespread. Biden always had that leverage but wouldn’t use it,” said Kenneth Roth, former executive director at Human Rights Watch and now a professor at Princeton University’s School for Public and International Affairs.


Asked by Reporters on Thursday “why Biden had shifted his position”, White House spokesperson John Kirby said the president had been shaken by the Israeli attack that killed seven World Central Kitchen aid workers, which the Israel Defense Forces has called a “serious failure” and fired two senior officers over.


I guess that some deaths count a whole lot more than others,” said Patrick Gaspard, president of the progressive-leaning Center for American Progress think tank, comparing Biden’s reaction to the deaths of the seven aid workers to the thousands already killed in the Gaza war.


Republican Representative Brian Mast of Florida, a member of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, in a statement accused Biden of “trying to appease far-left lunatics by demanding Israel accept a ceasefire with terrorists.”

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