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Joe Biden's Netanyahu problem could cost him the election, and America its security

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UNICEF, the UN’s Children Emergency Fund, estimates at least 14,000 children have been killed in Gaza as a result of Israel’s military operations. In March, Israeli commandos orchestrated a military offensive that decimated what was once Gaza’s biggest and most advanced medical complex, Al-Shifa.

Just recently, Israel was blamed for the bombing of the Iranian consulate in Syria (Israel has neither claimed nor denied responsibility for the attack).

Now, Iran is blaming both Israel and the United States and intelligence reports say Iran is planning retaliatory strikes as a result.

Clearly, President Joe Biden has a Netanyahu problem. A problem that could cost him his job and America its security.

Israel’s attacks in Gaza have grown more brazen and brutal with each offensive.

Still, the White House has steadfastly supported Israel’s right to defend itself against ongoing and indiscriminate attacks by Hamas.

Yet as Israel continues to increase the body count and the threat of famine grows, other nations' moral clarity and outrage comes into clear focus.

Palestinians walk through the destruction in the wake of an Israeli air and ground offensive in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Monday, April 8, 2024 (Fatima Shbair / AP Photo)

On March 18th of this year, Canada’s House of Commons passed a motion to halt arms exports to Israel over growing human rights concerns due to that nation’s military operations in Gaza.

Meanwhile, the Biden Administration’s calls for a two-state solution and humanitarian aid into Gaza grow emptier and more hollow. This, while approving billions in arms sales to Israel.

In fact, the Biden Administration recently authorized the transfer of weapons including bombs and fighter jets. Bombs which have reportedly been linked to previous mass casualty events throughout Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

Now, after months of unyielding support for Netanyahu amid a growing humanitarian crisis, President Biden’s invaluable political capital is eroding with much-needed democratic constituencies across key battleground states.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators march against police during a visit by President Joe Biden in Warren, Mich., Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024 (Paul Sancya / AP Photo)

In Michigan, home to the nation’s largest concentration of Arab-Americans, more than 100,000 democratic voters cast their ballots for “uncommitted,” underscoring their backlash to President Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza.

In the Wisconsin primary, more than 50,000 voters or just over eight percent of the democratic electorate followed Michigan’s lead in casting similar protest votes. Deeply alarming considering President Biden only won Wisconsin in 2020 with 20,600 votes.

In Washington, even after a full-throated denunciation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (supported by the White House), the highest-ranking Jewish figure in the U.S. government, the duplicitous actions by the Biden Administration continued.

As a result, rank-and-file democratic voters have reached a boiling point and are now fleeing. President Biden’s reticence to shift U.S. policy towards Israel is costing him at home and the nation abroad as the backlash intensifies. Following Sen. Chuck Schumer’s lead, other elected democrats are now pushing back against the Biden Administration and PM Netanyahu. No longer content with a clear pipeline of weaponry or empty rhetoric, lawmakers are expressing their outrage at the unspeakable carnage and devastation wrought by Netanyahu on innocent civilians.

Just recently, in a war that has already seen its share of senseless human tragedy, an Israeli airstrike killed seven food aid workers – including Canadian Army veteran Jacob Flickinger – in central Gaza. The attack was roundly condemned by Canada, the U.K., Poland, Australia and others. The death of staff members from World Central Kitchen, the nonprofit agency run by restaurateur Jose Andres, sparked international outcry.

The horrific attack on innocent lives became the catalyst that finally forced the Biden White House to change its tone, if not yet its position, on Israel. President Biden issued an ultimatum to the Israeli prime minister to protect Palestinian civilians and foreign aid workers or risk losing U.S. support in his ongoing war against Hamas.

More trouble on horizon for Biden

Still, as the world recognizes the six-month mark of the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, President Biden’s threats and ultimatums have not resulted in any tangible accountability for Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu remains committed to a military offensive in Rafah even as nations such as France, Egypt, Jordan and others have sternly warned against such a move. Gaza City is housing more than one million Palestinian refugees and such an incursion will only exacerbate the growing humanitarian crisis.

Yet, even as Prime Minister Netanyahu seems hell-bent on eradicating Hamas in Gaza, more trouble is on the horizon for Biden. The Iranian-backed Houthis are increasing their attacks on American, Israeli and British ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden to show support for the Palestinians. As a result, Iran and its proxies are now moving closer than ever to all out war with Israel. A near-certain face-off that will plunge the entire Middle East into chaos and the United States is caught in the crossfire.

In a recent Gallup poll, 55% of Americans disapprove of Israel’s actions in Gaza. Even worse for President Biden, the poll shows his approval rating over the handling of the situation at 27%.

Protesters block Pennsylvania Ave. during a pro-Palestinian demonstration near the U.S. Capitol in preparation for President Joe Biden's State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, March 7, 2024, in Washington (Luis M. Alvarez / AP Photo)

Further underscoring the danger, during an election year when independent support will be the difference between winning and losing, only 21% of independents approve of the president’s handling of the situation. President Biden still enjoys enormous support within the democratic base. However, persistent frustration with a small, yet growing, cadre of left-wing voters, combined with rising resentment from a sizable base of independents, should worry the Biden campaign.

Moreover, should PM Netanyahu’s bloodlust win out and he follows through with a military operation in Rafah, leading to an even deeper humanitarian crisis many predict, the political fallout could be devastating for Biden. In Wisconsin alone, the 50,000 uncommitted voters, already outraged by events on the ground, could continue to protest by voting third party, not voting or remaining uncommitted. Either way, their numbers are more than enough to offset Biden’s 2020 vote total in the state and could swing the state and possibly the election to Donald Trump.

Biden’s Netanyahu problem has been persistent and caustic. Other world leaders have adroitly navigated the rising swell of discontent. Yet, President Biden’s favour and support persists. Meanwhile, the White House hangs in the balance; America’s national security grows more vulnerable; Gaza is on the verge of famine; and President Biden continues to hold Israel close. Maybe, just maybe, Netanyahu is not the problem.

Eric Ham is a bestselling author and former congressional staffer in the U.S. Congress. He served as a contributor to TheHill.com and The Washington Diplomat. He resides in Washington, DC.

Correction

This column has been edited to state Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu seeks to eradicate Hamas in Gaza.

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