A growing chorus of criticism from within President Joe Biden’s own administration and campaign team is putting pressure on the White House over its handling of the recent war between Israel and Palestinian militant groups in Gaza. Two officials have resigned in protest, while an anonymous letter signed by former campaign volunteers accuses Biden of complicity in civilian deaths.
Senior Education Appointee Resigns Over Gaza Policy
On January 3rd, Tariq Habash, appointed by Biden to a senior position in the Department of Education, quit his post over concerns about the administration’s policy towards Israel and Gaza.
In his resignation letter, Habash accused the president of “turning a blind eye to the human rights violations and atrocities that the Palestinian people face every day” at the hands of the Israeli government. He slammed U.S. military aid to Israel, arguing American taxpayer money facilitates “crimes against the Palestinian people.”
“I cannot support an administration that is incapable of holding an apartheid regime accountable for its human rights abuses,” Habash wrote.
Habash also referenced Israel’s month-long bombardment of Gaza in November-December 2023, which killed over 250 Palestinians including civilians and children. The flare up was the worst since the 2014 Gaza war.
His resignation marks the first time a Biden political appointee has quit over Israel policy. It deals a blow to White House efforts to smooth tensions within the Democratic party on the sensitive Middle East issue.
Anonymous Campaign Volunteers Protest Biden Ties To Israel
In a separate development on January 3rd, a letter circulated online signed by over two dozen former Biden campaign volunteers and staff. It admonished the administration’s “unconditional support” for Israel’s “occupation” of Palestinian areas and slammed Biden’s “complicity” in Palestinian deaths during last year’s Gaza war.
The blistering 2-page letter argued U.S. backing for Israel made Biden partially responsible for the over 20,000 Palestinians killed since 2009.
“With more money and diplomatic support from the United States than ever before, the Netanyahu government is now poised to officially annex large portions of the West Bank, making the creation of a Palestinian state with contiguous borders impossible,” the letter stated.
It called on Biden to pursue an “even-handed approach” in mediating the conflict, including conditioning aid to Israel on ending settlement construction and home demolitions in the West Bank.
The letter capped a week of vocal opposition from within Biden’s own circles about his close ties with Israel. It suggests growing disquiet among Democrats over Palestinian rights, especially among younger progressive activists.
White House Defends “Quiet Diplomacy” But Vows More Engagement
While not directly addressing the two resignations, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended administration policy as striking a “delicate balance” between support for Israel and working towards peace.
|US Policy Position
|Ensuring Israel’s security while pushing for de-escalation of violence
|Addressing Gaza’s dire humanitarian situation with aid money and infrastructure projects
|Quietly engaging both sides to take steps to revive the dormant peace process
“We are committed to a two-state solution and to tangibly improving lives for Palestinians,” Psaki stated on January 4th.
Behind the scenes though, the protests seem to have rattled Biden loyalists. Sources say the White House will “substantially increase” its diplomatic engagement with Palestinian leaders in response. Officials also plan to take a tougher line with the Israeli government on sensitive issues like settlement growth and home demolitions.
The next few weeks could prove crucial in determining whether Biden can heal rifts within his own base on Israeli-Palestinian questions. He will also try balancing support for an important Middle East ally while backing Palestinian aspirations for statehood.
The latest resignations and staff protests are unlikely to significantly shift Biden’s policy in the near term. Maintaining Israel’s security and qualitative military edge remains central to U.S. strategy in the Middle East.
However, the administration will face growing pressure from Democrats to be more even-handed on Israel-Palestine as the 2024 presidential campaign gathers steam. Calls for conditioning parts of the $3.8 billion in annual American aid could become louder. Biden will have to walk a tightrope to keep various constituencies satisfied while pushing his peacemaking agenda.
Much depends on the situation on the ground and whether the fragile truce reached last month holds. New fighting would again test Biden’s skill at diplomatic balancing. With critics ready to pounce on any misstep, the Israel-Palestine issue promises to be a persistent foreign policy headache for the White House as the president gears up to run for a second term.
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