Biden Resists Pressure From Young Americans, Arab Allies
Netanyahu enjoys US support
US President Joe Biden is coming under mounting pressure from Democratic Congressmen, his Arab allies who had signed the Abrahamic Accords and young Americans to press Israel to go for humanitarian pauses in its military operations in Gaza.
But Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in no mood to listen, telling visiting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that there can be no humanitarian pause so long as Hamas holds the 200-odd hostages.
The Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Saturday that Democrats from both the Senate and House urged Secretary of State Blinken to further push Israel on declaring humanitarian pauses in order to ensure a sufficient flow of aid to the population trapped in Gaza.
Democratic lawmakers, led by Sen. Martin Heinrich and Rep. Veronica Escobar, pushed Blinken to make it clear to Israel that it must conduct military operations within the scope of international law and minimize civilian harm.
Meanwhile, opinion polls in the US show lowering support for Israel among young Americans, who are wary of being drawn into a Middle-East war.
A poll published on Thursday by Quinnipiac demonstrated the stark age divide. Respondents were asked, “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Israel is responding to the October 7th Hamas terrorist attack?” Half approved and 35% disapproved overall. But only 32% of respondents aged 18-34 approved of Israel’s response, as opposed to about 58% of those aged 50 and older, according to Times of Israel.
The survey showed that young American Jews were worried about antisemitism, with reports showing that it has spiked in recent years and increased even more dramatically since October 7.
When asked, “How serious a problem do you think that prejudice against Jewish people is today,” 38% said it was very serious and 37% said it was somewhat serious.
The Quinnipiac poll was conducted on October 26. Polls taken closer to the Hamas invasion had found greater support overall for Israel.
An October 8-10 poll by the Economist/YouGov asked, “In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, are your sympathies more with…” and found a 42%-9% divide overall in favour of Israel. “About equal,” But in the age group 18 to 29, only 25% sympathized more with Israel, 19% with the Palestinians, and 25% “about equal.”
For those 65 and above, 62% favoured Israel, 3% favoured the Palestinians and 18% responded “about equal.”
Three weeks later, Quinnipiac, asking whether respondents approve or disapprove of Israel’s response, found that 49% of Democrats disapproved while 33% approved. Three-quarters of Republicans approved, while 14% disapproved.
A poll from October 18 and 19 by the left-leaning Data for Progress found that 66% of all respondents, and majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents, agreed with the statement: “The US should call for a ceasefire and a de-escalation of violence in Gaza. The US should leverage its close diplomatic relationship with Israel to prevent further violence and civilian deaths.”
Arab nations that had normalized or were considering improving relations with Israel are coming under growing public pressure to cut those ties because of Israel’s war with Hamas.
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Rabat and other Moroccan cities in support of the Palestinians. In Bahrain — a country that almost never allows protest, hundreds of people marched last month, waving flags and gathering in front of the Israeli Embassy in Manama.
The demonstrations, which mirror protests across the Middle East, present an uncomfortable dilemma for governments that have enjoyed the benefits of closer military and economic ties with Israel in recent years.
In Egypt, which has had ties with Israel for decades, protesters rallied in cities and at universities, at times chanting “Death to Israel.”
A parliamentary committee in Tunisia last week advanced a draft law that would criminalize normalization with Israel.
In Morocco and Bahrain, the public anger has an additional dimension; activists are demanding the reversal of agreements that formalize ties with Israel, underscoring discord between the governments and public opinion.
“Hamas isn’t terrorists. It’s resistance to colonization. Imagine someone enters your house. How would you behave? Smile or make them leave by force?” said Abouchitae Moussaif, the national secretary of Morocco’s Al Adl Wal Ihsane, a banned but tolerated Islamist association that has long supported the Palestinian cause, told the Associated Press.
Large protests against the Israel-Hamas war have not erupted in Sudan or the United Arab Emirates. Thousands poured into the streets emboldened by pro-democracy protests in Egypt, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen. But in recent weeks, demonstrations have been allowed again.
“Now people are taking some risks to be in the street and participate,” said Jawad Fairooz, a former member of Bahrain’s Parliament who lives in exile in London. “Governments want to give some relief to people’s anger by allowing them to get together.”
As the war intensified, Arab leaders moved from condemning violence and calling for peace to more pointed criticism of Israel’s attacks in Gaza.
The United Arab Emirates Foreign Ministry initially called Hamas’ Oct. 7 raid in southern Israel a “serious and grave escalation,” and its finance minister told reporters the country does not mix trade with politics. But after Israel struck Gaza’s Jabaliya refugee camp on Tuesday, the UAE warned that “indiscriminate attacks will result in irreparable ramifications in the region.”
Morocco’s Foreign Ministry initially said it “condemns attacks against civilians wherever they may be.” But it later blamed Israel for the escalation of violence — including an explosion at a hospital in Gaza City — and highlighted its humanitarian aid efforts in Gaza.
“Israeli acts of escalation are in contradiction with international humanitarian law and common human values, Morocco’s Foreign Ministry said in a Thursday statement that did not mention normalization. It accused Israel of targeting civilians, noted an airstrike on the Jabaliya refugee camp, and condemned the international community — particularly “influential countries” and the United Nations Security Council — for not bringing an end to the war.
Honduras recalled its Ambassador to Israel, condemning the civilian Palestinian toll in the war.
The U.S.-brokered the “Abraham Accords”, aimed at winning broader recognition of Israel in the Arab world, paving the way for trade deals and military cooperation with Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates starting in 2020.
The accords marked a major diplomatic victory for Morocco because they led the U.S. — and eventually Israel — to recognize its autonomy over the disputed Western Sahara.
Morocco’s Foreign Ministry did not respond to questions about the agreement or protests.
The accords also led Washington to remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, presenting a lifeline for the ruling military junta fighting a pro-democracy movement and spiralling inflation.
Despite the opposition from its Middle Eastern allies, the US is continuing its military aid to Israel to fight the war.
This week, the House of Representatives approved a US$ 14.5 billion military aid package for Israel, but without humanitarian assistance for Gaza.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has warned that the "stunningly unserious" bill would have no chances in the Senate.
Cover Photograph: Protests against Israel in Morocco, as all over the world.