US Support for Israel Has Repercussions for Biden at Home and Abroad

In the days following the Hamas attack against Israel on 7th October 2023, President Joe Biden vowed the United States would continue to ensure “the Jewish and democratic State of Israel can defend itself today, tomorrow, as we always have.”[i] In the months of the war that followed, Washington supplied Israel with billions of dollars’ worth of aid and military equipment, continuing a policy that has seen Israel receive nearly $300 billion from the U.S. between 1956 and 2023, the most of any country in the world.[ii] In April 2024, both the House of Representatives and Senate passed the Israel Security Supplemental bill with overwhelming majority, allocating an additional $26.4 billion in emergency aid to Israel.

In addition to financial aid, the U.S. has provided Israel with diplomatic support. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has made multiple visits to the Middle East since October,[iii] and the U.S. vetoed three Arab-backed United Nations Security Council resolutions calling for an immediate ceasefire. The U.S. responded with their own proposal—tying a ceasefire to the release of all hostages taken by Hamas last October—which China and Russia vetoed in turn, signalling that a diplomatic solution to the war remains out of reach for the international community.

Opposition to Israeli policies in the war, especially amongst the leftist wing of the Democratic Party, has put even more pressure on Biden, who is seeking re-election in November. Israel’s heavy bombardment of the Gaza Strip resulted in some 34,000 deaths, and the death or injury of approximately 26,000 children[iv], stoking widespread protests in the US, especially on university campuses.

The influx of U.S. weapons into the Middle East has prolonged the highly contentious conflict, argue those opposed to American support for Israel. They also note that the U.S.  also profits from weapons sales while legal critics and human rights activists point to a lack of public transparency, especially about intelligence-sharing agreements with Israel.

The Evolution of Biden’s Approach to Israel since the Cold War

Biden’s support for Israel can be traced back to his years in the Senate, where he represented the state of Delaware from 1973 to 2009. In the context of the Cold War during the first decade and a half of his service, supporting Israel was viewed as “both good policy and good politics,” according to Professor F. Gregory Gause III from the Department of International Affairs at the Bush School of Government and Public Service. “The fact that he [Biden] is now in a difficult re-election campaign, only intensified these instincts,” Gause added.[v]

Core Democrats align more closely with younger and more liberal Jewish voters, who increasingly perceive Israel as having strayed from its principles.

With only 34% of registered voters supporting the President’s handling of the war in Gaza, there is growing concern within the Biden camp that the recent country-wide pro-Palestinian campus protests could spur Jewish voters to throw their support behind Trump in November.[vi] Dr. James Gelvin, Professor at UCLA’s History Department[vii], highlighted that in light of the current Gaza conflict, core Democrats align more closely with younger and more liberal Jewish voters, who increasingly perceive Israel as having strayed from its principles.

Since taking office, President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have continually remained at odds over policy issues, staring with settlement expansion in the West Bank and the question of Palestinian statehood. The two also diverged over Biden’s ambitions to reinstate the Iran nuclear deal, an agreement Netanyahu has long been opposed to, and one former President Trump pulled the US out of in 2018. Nonetheless, the U.S. has historically viewed Israel as a crucial ally in the unstable Middle East to help maintain the regional power balance – irrespective of the party in power. The country’s position was summed up by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham during a 2021 visit with Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz: “Nobody does more to protect America from radical Islam than our friends in Israel.” Graham, who staunchly opposes Iran, described Israel as “the eyes and ears of America.”[viii]

Following the October attacks, a secret U.S.-Israeli intelligence-sharing agreement was signed, and Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said during a recent press conference that in his three decades with the Israel Defense Forces, “the level of intelligence and military cooperation between Israel and the U.S. has never been higher.”[ix] In conjunction with the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program,[x] the U.S. supplied Israel with approximately 69% of the country’s arsenal.[xi] The FMF provides grants to eligible countries to purchase American defense equipment, services, and training, meaning the funding provided by Congress to Israel, returns to the coffers of America’s largest weapons producers.

Since the onset of the war, the Biden Administration publicly approved two arms sales to Israel, one for tank ammunitions worth $106 million and the other worth $147.5 million, which included components necessary for Israel’s existing 155mm shells to function.[xii] With both transactions, the government bypassed Congress, which usually oversees funding matters.

In addition to the two publicly known transactions, the U.S. has covertly executed “over 100 separate foreign military sales to Israel since the onset of the Gaza war” according to recent reports.[xiii] These transfers purportedly occurred through the Foreign Military Sales program (FMS), sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Defense. As FMS operates on a government-to-government basis, foreign nations do not directly do business with American defense contractors. Because the value of individual transactions fall below a certain threshold, the executive branch is not obligated to disclose them to Congress.

Swinging the Swing States: Battleground States Could Decide the Presidency

Biden’s stance on Middle East policy is influenced by the upcoming presidential election and the voting power of Arab and Muslim communities, especially in “swing states,” or states that could be won by either party. According to recent polling, Biden trails presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump in six of the seven swing states.[xiv] His only lead is by two points in Michigan, in which over 210,000 of 10 million people are Arab, the largest Arab population in the country. Biden carried the state in 2020 by approximately 150,000 votes, but his support is dwindling, in large part because of his support for Israel. In Michigan’s Democratic primary in March 2024, over 100,000 voters cast their ballot as “uncommitted” rather than in favour of Biden.[xv]

Members of Congress—mainly progressive Democrats—have also begun voicing their frustration with the lack of progress with regards to humanitarian conditions in Gaza. In March 2023, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders and seven other Democratic senators sent a letter to Biden, urging the President to enforce Section 620I of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA), also known as the Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act. The FAA states that “no assistance shall be furnished under this chapter or the Arms Export Control Act to any country when it is made known to the President that the government of such country prohibits or otherwise restricts, directly or indirectly, the transport or delivery of United States humanitarian assistance.”

The Democratic Party has traditionally aligned with Israel for decades.

A further sign that support for Israel within the Democratic Party is waning was Schumer’s 15th March speech, in which he called Netanyahu a “major obstacle to peace”.[xvi] “He has been too willing to tolerate the civilian toll in Gaza, which is pushing support for Israel worldwide to historic lows,” said Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish member in Congress. “Israel cannot survive if it becomes a pariah.” The Democratic Party has traditionally aligned with Israel for decades—a notion that Netanyahu has taken for granted his entire political life. Such comments from senior party leaders suggest that unconditional U.S. backing for Israel’s military actions is in question.

Trump’s criticism of Netanyahu comes after Israel benefited from strong U.S. support during his presidency.

Further pressure is coming from Biden’s probable opponent in the November election. Trump has repeatedly criticized the White House’s foreign policy. Trump has also characterized the conflict as a “PR war” Israel is losing, urging Netanyahu to “get it over with,” and “get back to normalcy” during a recent interview.[xvii] Trump’s criticism of Netanyahu comes after Israel benefited from strong U.S. support during his presidency. The Trump administration moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem after recognizing the city as Israel’s capital, acknowledged Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and brokered the Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and four Arab countries.[xviii]

Alone on the World Stage: International Pressures Mount on the U.S.

Israel’s military actions in Gaza have increasingly come under international scrutiny, sparking protests globally. Critics argue that Israel’s military response is disproportionate and does not sufficiently distinguish between military targets and civilians. Although the U.S. has cautioned Israel against escalating the conflict or maintaining a permanent military presence in Gaza, critics also blame the Biden Administration for not having done enough to protect Palestinian civilians.

The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, argued that Israel’s restrictions on food, water, medicine, and other humanitarian aid entering Gaza could amount to war crimes.[xix] In addition to raising issues on the same subject, South Africa accused Israel of violating the UN’s 1948 Genocide Convention in the International Court of Justice.[xx] Prosecutors in the case highlighted Israel’s bombardment campaign, which has decimated between 60 to 70 percent of Gaza’s residential buildings (84 percent in northern Gaza), [xxi] leading to the internal displacement of 1.7 million Gazans since the start of the war.[xxii] The International Court of Justice ruled on the case in January, ordering Israel to “ensure with immediate effect that its military does not commit genocide.” Over 200 members of parliaments from 12 countries—including the UK, Australia, France, Belgium, Canada, Brazil, Spain, the Netherlands, Turkey, and the U.S.—also signed a joint letter[xxiii] asking their governments to consider imposing a ban on weapon sales to Israel.

In March 2024, as a means to bypass restricted land entry points, the U.S. along with eight other countries (Jordan, the UAE, the UK, Germany, France, Indonesia, the Netherlands, and Egypt) began airdropping humanitarian aid into Gaza. This invited critics to highlight the contradictory elements of U.S. strategy, providing aid as well as weapons in the context of the same war.

As a steadfast advocate of a rules-based international order, the U.S. is under ever-growing pressure for prioritizing strategic considerations. Shortly after the outbreak of the war, King Abdullah II of Jordan cautioned that international law loses all value if it is implemented selectively.”[xxiv]

The Beginning of the War’s End?

An Israeli attack in Gaza on 1st April that resulted in the death of seven aid workers from World Central Kitchen marked a turning point in President Biden’s approach of resolute support of Israel. The incident no doubt had an effect on the President, who for the first time since the conflict began, insisted Israel institute “a series of specific, concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers.” [xxv] Israel complied with Biden’s demands mere hours after a phone conversation between Biden and Netanyahu, and since then, the crucial Erez land crossing into Gaza has been opened[xxvi], the Ashdod port has been activated[xxvii], and aid deliveries via Jordan have increased.

Anti-American sentiments are rising across the region, especially in Jordan and Egypt.

Despite these efforts, there could be irrevocable consequences for the U.S. in the Arab world over their support for Israel’s war in Gaza, especially if Netanyahu proceeds with his plans to invade Rafah “with or without” a ceasefire agreement.[xxviii] Anti-American sentiments are rising across the region, especially in Jordan and Egypt, says Dr. Sean Yom, assistant professor with the College of Liberal Arts at Temple University. By failing to protect the civilian population of Gaza, the preference of most major Arab public spheres over the past six months, the U.S. is missing out on an opportunity to build regional goodwill—the same mistake they made during the Arab Spring.[xxi]

Whatever the outcome of the November presidential election, the new commander-in-chief of the U.S. will face a difficult task. Ending the bombing and finding a peaceful solution to the crisis would only mark the beginning of recovery for Gaza’s population. According to Pehr Lodhammar, a top UN demining official, the war has left behind approximately 37 million tons of debris. Assuming a lasting ceasefire were implemented today, Lodhammar estimates that it would take years to clear the aftermath of the devastation.[xxx] A recent joint report published by the World Bank and the UN suggests that rebuilding critical infrastructure in the Gaza Strip would necessitate nearly $18.5 billion.[xxxi]

The Impact of Internal Israeli Politics

A growing portion of the Israeli public is turning against Netanyahu’s government and Netanyahu himself. In March 2024, thousands of protestors gathered outside the Knesset, demanding early elections. Netanyahu, who is embroiled in three separate criminal cases involving allegations of fraud, breach of trust, and bribery, has faced previous protests, which intensified over the course of 2023 as his government pushed for adopting controversial judicial reforms perceived to undermine Israel’s democratic integrity.[xxxii]

The Israeli population in general remained united over the protection of their country against future Hamas threats. However, divergences of opinion have begun to emerge as a significant portion of the Israeli population remains deeply concerned about the direction their country is taking under its current leadership. Others believe Netanyahu is prioritizing his personal political survival over the welfare of the nation. All of this internal criticism is in opposition to the narrative of national unity presented by the government to the international community.

Throughout the earlier months of the conflict—despite escalating domestic and international pressure, Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition remained steadfast, refusing to entertain the notion of stepping down and prompting calls for elections. However, in response to a now seven-month-long war that has yet to achieve its objectives (dismantling Hamas and repatriating the hostages taken on 7th October) cracks are beginning to appear within the government. Centrist Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet threatened to resign from government if Netanyahu refuses to lay out a post-war plan in Gaza. Gantz’s ultimatum followed similar sentiments displayed by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who announced he would step down from his position if Israel were to re-occupy Gaza.

Because Netanyahu is essentially running against Biden in his race to remain PM, his posture towards the White House is increasingly confrontational, says Professor Steven Simon from the Henry Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington[xxxiii]. Netanyahu’s political strategy involves framing his campaign around opposition to certain policies of the Biden administration, particularly those related to Iran and the Palestinians. This approach uses Biden’s foreign policy stances as a foil to galvanize support among his base and broader right-leaning voters in Israel. This strategic opposition allows Netanyahu to project strength and assertiveness in foreign policy—qualities that are often prized by his electoral base. His stance, coupled with the harsh imagery coming out of Gaza, has begun to tilt public opinion in support of the Palestinian cause, increasing pressure for an immediate ceasefire. During a recent conversation with Biden, Netanyahu stressed that Israeli national security takes precedence over a two-state solution and that Israel intends to maintain security control over Gaza even after neutralizing Hamas.[xxxiv] This stance is not new for Netanyahu, but it continues to weaken decades of U.S. foreign policy efforts aimed at establishing a sovereign Palestinian state.


The regional aftermath following the October attacks serve as a stark reminder that neglecting the Middle East without a concrete pathway for a two-state solution amidst ongoing tensions with Iran runs significant regional risks. The Middle East, even prior to 7th October 2023, remained besieged with regional powers vying for influence via diplomatic means and cross-border operations with the help of proxy groups. Meanwhile, the power vacuums supplemented by the growing capabilities of malign non-state actors such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Islamic State (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, and various other militias in Iraq and Syria necessitate continuing U.S. commitments to the Middle East, despite the country’s now years-long intent to shift priorities and assets eastward.

The Gaza conflict comes at the end of Biden’s term as president, a period in which his administration focused its foreign policy on strategic competition with China. One of the first priorities of Biden’s National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, was downsizing the staff of the National Security Council’s Middle East directorate.[xxxv] Israel’s war with Hamas along with Ukraine’s war against Russia (the U.S. has given Ukraine well over $100 billion since fighting began in 2022, not including a $61 billion package recently passed by Congress on April 28, 2024) have forced the White House to shift its attention away from East Asia.

The recent negotiations and potential defense pact between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. under the Biden administration are significantly intertwined with the prospects for Israeli-Saudi normalization.

President Biden is adapting his Middle East policy in real-time, but he must react quickly to the chaos that has unfolded in the region, with a number of state and non-state actors becoming involved in the conflict via diplomatic and military means. To encourage long-term stability, the U.S. should proactively assist in establishing lasting peace together with its regional partners, particularly if it is intent on disconnecting itself from the region to a larger extent. The starting place, which circles back to the core of the Hamas attacks is to finalize an Israeli-Saudi normalization agreement tied to a tenable pathway for a Palestinian state—which has remained a pre-cursor for Saudi Arabia to normalize ties with Israel. The recent negotiations and potential defense pact between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. under the Biden administration are significantly intertwined with the prospects for Israeli-Saudi normalization. Saudi Arabia has been clear that the normalization of relations with Israel hinges on significant progress towards the creation of a Palestinian state. The Biden Administration is actively facilitating discussions between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Part of the U.S. strategy involves offering incentives to both parties: for Saudi Arabia, this includes security guarantees and support for a civilian nuclear program; for Israel, the carrot is improved regional relationships and security alignments, particularly against common threats such as Iran. The push for normalization comes at a time when the U.S. is looking to solidify alliances and counterbalance other regional influences, like that of China’s. Normalization is seen not just as a bilateral relationship but a strategic reshaping of Middle Eastern geopolitics.
[xxxvi] The potential for a new Middle Eastern status quo to emerge after the war remains feasible as long as diplomatic efforts keep in mind and address the region’s longstanding political challenges as well as individual stakeholders’ longstanding policy concerns.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has remained a source of tension and violence in the region for decades. Palestinians seek self-determination through the establishment of a sovereign state while Israel demands security assurances that a Palestinian state would not pose a threat to itself, and has advocated for measures including demilitarization, security arrangements and the prevention of terrorism. These would require considerable U.S. and regional support. While not impossible, such ambitious goals will remain a prerequisite to achieving meaningful, long-lasting peace and stability in the region. If the United States were to successfully broker a formal normalization agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, as part of a broader effort to achieve a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it could see a significant improvement in its reputation among both regional governments and public opinion alike.

[i] The White House. (October 10, 2023). “Remarks by President Biden on the Terrorist Attacks in Israel.” Retrieved from
[ii] Masters, J., & Merrow, W. (April 11, 2024). “U.S. Aid to Israel: Four Charts.” Retrieved from
[iii] Burke, J., Beaumont, P., & Borger, J. (January 8, 2024). “Antony Blinken arrives in Israel amid fresh US push to stop war spreading,” The Guardian. Retrieved from
[iv] Save the Children. (April 4, 2024). “Over 2% of Gaza’s child population killed or injured in six months of war,” Save the Children.
[v] Interview with F. Greogory Gause III on April 2, 2024.
[vi] Zengerle, P. (2024, May 16). Democratic divide on Gaza war and campus protests hurting Biden, Reuters/Ipsos poll finds. Reuters.
[vii] Interview with James Gelvin on March 21, 2024.
[viii] Israel Hayom. (June 2, 2021). “Lindsey Graham calls Israel ‘the eyes and ears of America,’” Israel Hayom.
[ix] Strobel, W. P., & Youssef, N. A. (March 31, 2024). “U.S. and Israel’s Unprecedented Intelligence Sharing Draws Criticism,” The Wall Street Journal.
[x] The Foreign Military Financing (FMF) is a funding program managed by the U.S. government that provides grants and loans to help countries purchase military equipment, services, and training. This program is designed to support U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives by assisting allies and partner nations in strengthening their defense capabilities. The program is administered by the U.S. Department of State but is executed by the Department of Defens
[xi] Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. (2024). “Trends in international arms transfers, 2023.”
[xii] Defense Security Cooperation Agency. (December 29, 2023). “Israel – 155mm Artillery Ammunition.” Retrieved from
[xiii] Hudson, J. (March 6, 2024). “U.S. to Send $1 Billion in Weapons to Israel After Gaza Conflict,” The Washington Post.
[xiv] Korte, G. (April 24, 2024). “Biden Trails Trump in 6 of 7 Key States, Poll Shows: Election 2024,” Bloomberg.
[xv] Fischler, J. (April 10, 2024). “Israel-Hamas war sets progressive and young voters on collision course with White House,” Michigan Advance.
[xvi] Karni, A. (March 14, 2024). “Schumer’s Effort to Warn Netanyahu About U.S. Involvement in Israeli Elections,” The New York Times.
[xvii] Vazquez, M. (April 4, 2024). “Trump backs Netanyahu on Israel-Gaza violence in comments to Israeli TV,” The Washington Post.
[xviii] The Abraham Accords are a series of normalization agreements between Israel and several Arab nations that were brokered by the U.S. in 2020. These accords mark a significant shift in the diplomatic landscape of the Middle East, fostering peace, economic ties, and cooperation among the signatories. The primary agreements were signed by Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain in September 2020. Subsequently, other countries such as Sudan and Morocco also joined the accords.
[xix] Beaumont, P. (March 19, 2024). “UN says Israeli restrictions on Gaza food aid a war crime amid hunger crisis,” The Guardian. Retrieved April 29, 2024, from
[xx] Parker, C. (March 3, 2024). “How Israel’s restrictions on aid put Gaza on the brink of famine,” The Washington Post. Retrieved April 29, 2024, from
[xxi] Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. (April 2024). “Gaza: UN experts deplore use of purported AI to commit ‘domicide’ in Gaza, call for international inquiry.” Retrieved April 29, 2024, from
[xxii] United Nations Population Fund. (n.d.). Occupied Palestinian Territory. United Nations Population Fund. Retrieved May 23, 2024, from
[xxiii] This action was coordinated by Progressive International, an international organization that unites and mobilizes progressive left-wing activists and organizations around the world. It was launched in May 2020 after an open call for progressive forces to form a unified front. Notable politicians who signed the letter include Jean-Luc Mélenchon from France, Pablo Bustinduy from Spain, and Jignesh Mevani from India. The move reflects growing international concern over the use of weapons in ongoing conflicts and aims to pressure governments to reevaluate their arms sales policies concerning Israel.
[xxiv] MacFarquhar, N. (October 23, 2023). “Developing World Sees Double Standard in West’s Actions in Gaza and Ukraine,” The New York Times. Retrieved April 29, 2024, from
[xxv] Ward, M., & Ward, A. (April 4, 2024). “Biden tells Netanyahu U.S. policy hinges on Israel’s immediate action,” Politico. Retrieved from
[xxvi] The Erez Crossing is a border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel, located at the northern end of the Gaza Strip, between the Israeli kibbutz of Erez and the Palestinian town of Beit Hanoun. It is the sole crossing point for individuals between the Gaza Strip and Israel by land, serving as a crucial gateway for Palestinians living under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian National Authority, Egyptian citizens and nationals, and international aid officials. The Erez Crossing plays a critical role in humanitarian access, allowing for the passage of medical patients, diplomats, and humanitarian aid workers.
[xxvii] The Ashdod Port plays a crucial role in the country’s economy, serving as a major entry point for merchandise and cargo to and from Israel. It handles the largest volume of cargo containers annually of all Israeli ports. The port is strategically significant as it is one of the few deep-water ports in the world built on the open sea, which involved significant engineering challenges during its construction. The port’s establishment marked a substantial increase in Israel’s port capacity and is vital for Israel’s trade and economy, facilitating the import and export of goods, supporting maritime transport, and contributing to the country’s economic growth and development.
[xxviii] Cave, D., Wong, E., Rasgon, A., & Fuller, T. (April 30, 2024). “Netanyahu orders invasion of Rafah after cease-fire,” The New York Times. Retrieved from
[xxix] Interview with Sean Yom on April 24, 2024.
[xxx] Graham-Harrison, E. (April 26, 2024). “Gaza’s 3.7m tonnes of bomb-filled debris could take 14 years to clear, says expert,” The Guardian.
[xxxi] World Bank. (March 29, 2024). “Gaza Interim Damage Assessment.”
[xxxii] The New York Times. (March 31, 2024). “Israel-Hamas War in Gaza: News,” The New York Times. Retrieved April 29, 2024, from
[xxxiii] Interview with Steven Simon on March 27, 2024.
[xxxiv] Graham-Harrison, E., & Helm, T. (January 20, 2024). “Netanyahu defies Biden, insisting there’s no space for Palestinian state,” The Guardian. Retrieved April 29, 2024, from
[xxxv] Pager, T., & Bertrand, N. (January 28, 2021). “Biden’s China focus,” Politico.
[xxxvi] Nardelli, A., Jacobs, J. and Martin, P. ( May 1, 2024) “US and Saudis Near Defense Pact Meant to Reshape Middle East,” Bloomberg,

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