Why Biden’s high-risk trip to Israel could be politically fraught: Analysis


It’s a bold move at a fragile time — a show of solidarity that could backfire in any number of directions, whether within a dangerous region or at home.

For President Joe Biden, a hastily arranged but meticulously planned visit to Israel on Wednesday, in the wake of the Hamas terror attack earlier this month, represents an opportunity to show support for America’s closest allies in the Middle East. It is also a potential opportunity to influence Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he plans steps that could shake up regional politics for years to come.

Biden also risks highlighting political divisions over Israel that are more evident within his Democratic Party, particularly over how Netanyahu’s government deals with the Palestinians and the West Bank and Gaza. The dynamics that could give Biden leverage at a dangerous moment could also leave some fallout at his feet, a year before he is up for re-election.

Beyond the obvious security risks — the Secret Service issued an unusual statement broadly describing “extremely complex” planning around the president’s movements in Israel — the moment Biden chooses to visit is complicated by significant uncertainties.

Nearly ten days after Hamas’ unfathomable attack on Israelis, the fate of more than 200 hostages held by Hamas hangs in the balance. As Israel continues to back away from an expected ground assault on Gaza, the Palestinian territory controlled by Hamas, explosions at a Gaza hospital on Tuesday reportedly left hundreds dead in what could be just a glimpse of the humanitarian toll to come.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sent word that he was canceling a scheduled meeting with Biden, and soon after, the White House said Biden was postponing his entire trip to Jordan, where he would have spoken with Abbas, but would “stay regular and direct.” “Engaged” with Jordanian King Abdullah II and Egyptian Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

Image: Rockets fired from the Gaza Strip towards central Israel, as seen from Ashkelon in southern Israel on October 17, 2023.

Rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip towards central Israel, as seen from Ashkelon in southern Israel on October 17, 2023.

Amir Cohen – Reuters

Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who has been a strong critic of Israel and is also the first American of Palestinian origin to be elected to the House of Representatives, went so far as to suggest in a post on the X website that Biden was partly responsible for the attack. The hospital was bombed and the president was branded “your war.”

“We will remember where you stood,” Tlaib wrote.

It is a sentiment reinforced by the Republican candidates for president, albeit from another direction – ostensibly more pro-Israel. Biden’s stance on Iran has been criticized by many as encouraging a Hamas attack, given Iran’s role as a major sponsor of the group, with Senator Tim Scott, R-S.C., saying Biden has “blood on his hands” because he has shown “weakness.” Which puts the Israelis at risk.

This opinion seems to be less widespread in Israel, and this is one of the reasons why Netanyahu may welcome the American president this week. Biden’s initial response to the attacks drew a measure of bipartisan praise for his moral clarity.

“We must be very clear: We stand with Israel,” Biden said last week. “We stand with Israel.” “And we will make sure that Israel has what it needs to care for its citizens, defend itself and respond to this attack.”

America is also fairly united behind Israel for now, at least insofar as any issue can bring the nation together in 2023. An ABC News/Ipsos poll, conducted on the ground in the days following the Hamas attacks on Israel, found, 49% of survey participants support Israel. Americans say the United States is doing the right amount to support Israel, while another 29% say Israel is doing too little. Less than one in five said that Israel gets a lot of support.

Meanwhile, 54% of Americans said they disapproved of Biden’s initial handling of the conflict, while 62% said they disapproved of his handling of Iran. These numbers are consistent with subpar perceptions of the president across the range of domestic and foreign policy issues surveyed.

Photo: President Joe Biden speaks at a dinner hosted by the Human Rights Campaign at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., October 14, 2023.

President Joe Biden speaks at a dinner hosted by the Human Rights Campaign at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., October 14, 2023.

Ken Cedeno – Reuters

The President’s general comment hinted at the difficulties ahead. Biden has been vocal in his warnings against Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group located north of Israel, and Iran, which is likely seeking to take advantage of the situation in Israel. “Don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do it,” he said in “60.” minutes of the meeting” – while at the same time saying that it would be a “big mistake” for Israel to seek to reoccupy Gaza.

For better or worse, Biden’s time in office has become defined by major international crises. The chaotic American withdrawal from Afghanistan coincided with the retreat of American forces His approval ratings Which hasn’t turned around yet.

Meanwhile, his support for Ukraine against the Russian invasion — including a secret trip he made to Kiev last winter — is seen by his team as a high point. It featured prominently in early campaign messages.

Biden will arrive in Israeli territory transformed by the horrors of the past few weeks, and Biden has spoken publicly about his deep understanding of the country’s turbulent history. Israel, as always, needs American support, although what that means will be complicated by realities in both the Middle East and the United States.

This article originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

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