Sunday, April 14, 2024
Hamas and Israel conflict. Country flags on broken wall. Illustration.

Why The War Between Israel and Hamas is Driving a Stake through Biden’s Fragile Coalition

Political coalitions are often tenuous. Politics makes strange bedfellows, and often temporary alliances were not meant to form permanent political parties. Sometimes groups with different world views can form common agreements for a period of time, but eventually issues begin to expose the conflicting principles and perspectives these individuals have.

The progressive and moderate wings of the Democratic party are not compatible long-term for multiple reasons, and the war between Israel and Hamas is showing once again the significant difference in the long-time established views of old-school Democrat leaders such as Joe Biden sold himself as when elected in 2020, as opposed to the foreign policy perspectives of more progressive members such as AOC and Bernie Sanders.

There are multiple indications that the conflict between Israel and Hamas is creating significant fractures in the Democratic Party. First, younger voters who tend to be more progressive and tend to favor anti-Israel policies, as we’ve seen across college campuses, are now turning on Biden. Even the New York Times sounded the alarm after the dismal support Biden received from younger voters in the Michigan primary, and the paper pointed out that the overwhelming majority of younger voters disapprove of Biden’s handling of the current conflict between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas. Nearly 20 percent of DNC staffers also signed a letter in 2023 demanding a cease-fire in Gaza, and a recent State Department employee, who resigned over her views of Biden’s handling of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, stated that she spoke for many in this well-known liberal institution.

One recent example of these divisions on display was when progressives recently booed and protested against Hilary Clinton for her support of Israel.

The current congressional race in Westchester County, New York, between Jamaal Bowman, a Democratic Socialists of America devotee and member of The Squad who is an outspoken critic of Israel, and George Latimer, who is a much bigger supporter of Netanyahu, has further highlighted the growing divide in the Democratic party over the current conflict as well. Bowman has actively protested against Israel and Netanyahu, while Latimer has been actively supported and financed by AIPAC. Latimer has even accused Bowman of receiving financing from Hamas. Latimer was recruited by AIPAC to run against Bowman, and the New York race has already gotten nasty.

The reality is that the views of progressives on foreign policy have never fit in the Democratic party. As progressive and extreme as Biden has been domestically on the border, spending, and number of other issues, he and Obama have both pursued a more hawkish foreign policy in general. Both leaders also relied on the Washington foreign-policy establishment, exemplified by current Secretary of State Antony Blinken, for example, to formulate their foreign policy. Both Obama and Biden have also pursued fairly hardline policies overseas, at least when they perceived political advantage in doing so.

Obama continued the War in Afghanistan and lied to the American public about the conflict, dropped over 26,000 bombs in just 2016 alone, and launched over 500 drone strikes as well. In comparison, President Bush launched just 57 drone strikes. Biden and Obama are also both clear supporters of the same failed policies promoting regime change around the world that were advocated by the neoconservatives in the Bush Administration from 2000 to 2008. Nearly the entire Democratic party voted for and supported the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including now Biden, and the failed current President still supports regime change and a foreign policy viewpoint that is diametrically opposed to what more progressive members of the Democratic party want. While Republicans obviously supported those wars as well, Trump’s America First vision has taken the party in a different direction.

This is particularly important because signs are growing that Netanyahu is determined to invade Rafah, a southern city in Gaza where most Palestinians and Hamas members have retreated to as Israel has continued bombing the northern part of this territory. There are some 1.5 million Palestinians living in Rafah, making an Israeli invasion a potential bloodbath.

Netanyahu stated that he was determined to go to Rafah just a couple weeks ago, saying that without entering this city Israel could not fully eliminate Hamas. While he’s correct, such an invasion holds immense diplomatic danger not just for Israel but also for the U.S., and it’s also a potential wedge directly into the fragile Democrat coalition.

Even though there are obviously some outspoken Republicans who dislike President Trump personally, the difference between most conservatives and moderates in the Republican party on policy is nowhere near as significant as the gap between the policy differences between the moderate Democrats and the progressive wing of that party. Most Republicans who don’t like the former President still supported his conservative overhaul of the judiciary, the closing of the border, and his large tax cut, and following the unsatisfying results the Bush-era neocons produced in Iraq and Afghanistan there is a large and persistent appetite within the GOP base for a foreign policy based much more on our national interests than gassy notions of promoting democracy and freedom abroad. There are still neocons in the party, as Nikki Haley demonstrated, but as her results demonstrated those policies do not move the needle with Republican voters.

On the other hand, the growing divide between progressives and moderates in the Democratic party on key issues such as trade and foreign policy was already evident – as for example when progressives opposed Obama’s push for the Trans-Pacific Partnership – is far more severe. And with the Israel-Hamas war about to enter a climactic stage in Rafah, those divisions could well grow to create permanent fractures in the Democrats’ delicate coalition.