Biden Facing Pro-Palestinian Pushback From Fellow Democrats

Amid the escalating conflict in the Middle East, prominent voices within the Democratic Party are calling for a reassessment of the U.S.’s support for Israel. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) are among those urging Joe Biden to take a firmer stance regarding Israel’s military operations.

Sanders, speaking Friday on MSNBC, underscored the gravity of the situation, describing the current conflict as “one of the more horrific moments in modern history.” While affirming Israel’s right to defend itself, he called for an immediate halt to actions that result in civilian casualties. Sanders articulated that American financial aid to Israel, which stands at $2.8 billion annually, comes with the expectation that what he described as American values are upheld, not compromised.

Sanders emphasized what he described as the need for a “pause right now in the bombing” and addressing the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. Lee echoed the sentiment during her appearance on CNN on Friday, where she argued for a ceasefire and highlighted the need for Biden to express his stance clearly.

The push for a ceasefire has been a consistent theme from various Democratic leaders. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), reflecting the position of a group of Democratic senators, called on Biden to demand a “short-term cessation of hostilities” rather than a complete ceasefire. He said that position aligns with the administration’s objective not to empower Hamas, which the U.S. designates as a terrorist organization, by allowing it to remain in control of Gaza.

The Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has maintained a firm stance, refusing to consider a ceasefire until all hostages taken by Hamas are released. Netanyahu’s determination resonates with the sentiment of many Israelis, and his resolve was evident during a national address where he pledged to do “everything that is needed to defeat our enemies.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent trip to Israel was marked by a dual mission: to show support for Israel while seeking relief for Palestinians. Despite this delicate balancing act, the Israeli position remains clear — aid to Gaza will only increase if it does not benefit Hamas, and any ceasefire must be contingent upon the release of hostages.

Within the Biden administration, a series of “humanitarian pauses” has been proposed to facilitate relief efforts. John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, detailed this approach, emphasizing the goal of aiding civilians and securing the safe release of hostages.

The calls for a ceasefire and reassessment of U.S. support have put the Biden administration in a delicate position. As Democrats in D.C. signal a shift, expressing increased concern for Palestinian civilians, the White House continues to publicly back Israel’s aim to dismantle Hamas’s control over Gaza.