Biden's seemingly one-sided support of Israel could cost him the election in 2024

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President Joe Biden’s reelection prospects could be tied to how Democrats – in particular progressives – and Arab and Muslim Americans view his performance during and after the Israel-Hamas war that erupted on Oct. 7.

While Arabs and Muslims in this country have all along been supportive of Palestinians, mainstream Democrats have become more sympathetic to Palestinians than Israelis only over the past decade.

These voters have been angered by Biden’s seemingly one-sided support of Israel and his refusal to call for a permanent cease-fire in the fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The majority of those supported Biden’s presidential bid in 2020.

An Israeli artillery unit is pictured near the border with the Gaza Strip on Dec. 5, 2023, amid continuing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. Israel pressed on with its expanded ground operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, following the expiry of a seven-day truce on Friday, after which fighting resumed. Hamas militants from Gaza launched an unprecedented attack on southern Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 240 hostages, according to Israeli officials.

Biden broke his promises about Israel

Unlike successive presidents since Richard Nixon, Biden opted to deprioritize U.S. efforts to broker a broad and lasting peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians when he came into office.

His primary concerns were China and the Russia-Ukraine war. In the Middle East, he pushed for Arab-Israeli naturalization, primarily Israeli-Saudi ties.

President Joe Biden speaks to reporters in Nantucket, Mass., Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, about hostages freed by Hamas in a third set of releases under a four-day cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas. (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)
President Joe Biden speaks to reporters in Nantucket, Mass., Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, about hostages freed by Hamas in a third set of releases under a four-day cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas. (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)

Biden did not appoint a special envoy for Middle East peace. He reneged on his campaign promise to reopen the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem and the Palestinian mission in Washington. Furthermore, he did not reinstate a State Department legal opinion – canceled by then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – declaring Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be illegal.

In an opinion piece published in The Washington Post on Nov. 18, the president defended his support of Israel during its relentless carpet-bombing campaign of Gaza between Oct. 7 and Nov. 24, when the “pause” in hostilities was announced: “We firmly stand with the Israeli people as they defend themselves against the murderous nihilism of Hamas.”

Biden is risking another 'forever war': The president's support of Israel makes US an accessory to apartheid

Is President Biden buying Israel time to finish off Hamas?

While he acknowledges the plight of Gazans – “I, too, am heartbroken by the images out of Gaza and the deaths of many thousands of civilians, including children” – he persisted in rejecting worldwide calls for a cease-fire.

Biden remained unapologetic in his defense of Israel.

He wrote, “As long as Hamas clings to its ideology of destruction, a cease-fire is not peace.”

It is as though he was buying Israel time to finish off Hamas at the unbearable expense of all the death and destruction that has occurred in Gaza and its people since Oct. 7.

I asked Biden for cease-fire in Gaza. Now the world is asking with me.

According to Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, more than 20,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza in two months. Most of them have been civilians – over 8,000 were children and at least 4,000 were women.

For reference, the war in Ukraine recorded at least 10,000 civilian deaths so far in 21 months of fighting.

Here lies the serious problem that Biden could face in his reelection bid in 2024.

A Gallup poll conducted in February confirmed that for the first time, more Democrats sympathize with Palestinians (49%) than sympathize with Israelis (38%). The 49% is more than double the 23% who sympathized with Palestinians in 2014.

Palestinians fleeing Khan Yunis arrive in Rafah further south near the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt on Dec. 5, 2023, after Israeli forces were seen the previous day on the outskirts of Khan Yunis, which is packed with displaced civilians. Israeli troops battled Hamas militants in the southern Gaza Strip on December 5 after expanding their offensive deeper into the besieged territory, with UN warnings that an "even more hellish scenario" was unfolding for trapped civilians.

Biden cannot afford to lose Muslims, progressives

Based on an analysis by The Washington Post, “Biden’s handling of the war threatens to diminish enthusiasm for him among young voters ahead of the 2024 election.”

These are Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012) and millennial voters (born between 1981 and 1986). If we are to combine those voters with Arab and Muslim American voters as well as progressives, Biden could lose his reelection bid.

Another survey from Democratic pollster Lake Research Partners, found that only 16% of Arab and Muslim Democrats in the key swing state of Michigan would vote for Biden if the presidential election were held today, according to NBC News.

If this exodus of support for Biden persists, it would threaten “Biden’s chances in key swing states where he won by slim margins,” according to an analysis by Spectrum News.

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A recent poll showed that public support for Biden vs. Trump runs at 42% vs. 41% – within the margin of error. However, we all know that delegate numbers matter more than overall votes. If Biden loses swing states, he could win the majority vote yet lose the presidency.

Several developments could turn the tide for Biden among these skeptical voters. Chief among them is a complete cessation of Israeli attacks on Gaza and the West Bank, and the convening of an immediate peace conference with the two-state solution as a significant item on its agenda.

Anything short of these events could harden the opposition to Biden among Arab and Muslim Americans, young Democrats and progressives, and his prospects for reelection could be doomed.

Bishara A. Bahbah is the former vice president of the U.S. Palestinian Council.
Bishara A. Bahbah is the former vice president of the U.S. Palestinian Council.

Bishara A. Bahbah, a Phoenix resident, has been writing since 2000 for The Arizona Republic, where this column first published. He taught at Harvard and was the associate director of Harvard’s Middle East Institute. He is the former vice president of the U.S. Palestinian CouncilReach him at

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Biden's support of Israel could cost him Gen Z, swing states in 2024