How are American voters making sense of Israel’s war against Hamas and what should they know about the Jewish State’s objectives?
Put simply, there is growing division in the Democrat Party over support for Israel’s operations in Gaza as the US Congress debates President Biden’s aid package request. The rancor has spread beyond the unrest seen at university campus protests and has reached levels within the Democrat Party that threaten to disrupt President Biden’s 2024 political coalition.
There is also a generational disagreement in the US over support for Israel. An October 26-30 Quinnipiac University poll found that only 32% of 18-34 year olds approve of the way in which Israel is responding to Hamas’ October 7 attacks, a marked difference from the 50% of respondents over 35 years of age who support Israel’s operations thus far.
This is to say nothing of the global protests that have been sparked by Israel’s military involvement in Gaza, nor of the American political parties’ divide on the issue with 75% of Republican voters approving of Israel’s response and 49% of Democrats opposing, according to the October 26-30 Quinnipiac University poll.
The poll also revealed that 84% of registered voters are concerned that the U.S. will be drawn into a new Middle East conflict and an October 18-20 Wall Street Journal/IPSOS poll found that 57% of registered voters would oppose the use of American troops if Israel was again attacked by its neighbors.
Something for President Biden and Israel’s leaders to keep their eyes on … The October 18-20 Wall Street Journal/IPSOS poll showed that 52% of respondents believe that the US has a responsibility to support Israel. While this is a strong number, it is less than the 66% of American registered voters who believed that the US should support Ukraine reclaim its former territory in August of 2022 – –six months after Putin’s invasion of February 24, 2022.
For perspective, since August of last year, US support for Ukraine has declined with 41% saying that the US is doing too much to help Ukraine (a 24% rise since August, 2022) while 33% say that the US is doing “the right amount” and 25% say that the US is not doing enough.
While traditionally there is uniquely bipartisan support for Israel in Washington and the US-Israel relationship is a different ball of wax than US-Ukraine ties, it is noteworthy that current support for Israel during its still-young one-month war against Hamas is at a lower base (52%) than support for Ukraine was after its initial six months of conflict with Russia (66%) in August of last year.
This could portend a decline in American public support for Israel going forward. Weakened US backing would possibly lead to Israel receiving lesser amounts of American aid, complicating its prosecution of the war against Hamas.
Adding to difficulties are the headwinds that President Biden continues to face at the polls, a problem that began with his mishandling of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August, 2021. According to FiveThirtyEight.com’s polls average, Mr. Biden currently has a meager approval rating of 38.8% and a disapproval rate of 55%.
Making matters worse, Biden’s support among Arab American voters has cratered from 59% in 2020 to 17% since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war. An October poll by the Arab American Institute found that 66% of Arab Americans had a negative view of Biden.
This is a politically perilous development for the President as he begins his 2024 reelection campaign. Arab Americans are an increasingly active voter group in key swing states such as Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania – – all of which are must-have states for Biden in next year’s election.
Amid current shifts in public opinion, what should American voters and taxpayers know about why Israel is fighting Hamas in Gaza throughout the torrent of criticism the Jewish State is receiving in the media and on the world stage?
The American voter is fickle and typically wants as little of foreign policy as possible. The latest example of this is shown with the increasing isolationism in the Republican Party and its declining support for Ukraine.
Given this, what can the Biden administration do to maintain public support of Israel during this challenging time? Along these lines, what key points can be used to educate US society about the reasons Israel is prosecuting this latest war against Hamas?
Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren has provided a few thoughts in recent weeks, namely:
The Israeli government will need to fix the promise that it broke to its people on October 7. Israel was founded three years after the end of the Holocaust (1948) with the commitment that the state would protect Jews from future massacres. It failed to live up to this solemn responsibility last month and it will need to begin repairing trust with its citizens after the present war ends. However, this process cannot begin in earnest under continued attacks by Hamas.
Additionally, if Hamas is not defeated by Israel, much of Israel’s land to the south will become unlivable and will no longer be able to attract investment due to ongoing security concerns. This could result in future generations of Jewish communities opting to live outside of Israel because of understandable worries for their safety.
Furthermore, it is imperative that Israel prosecute this war while Hamas is still in possession of 200+ hostages, most of whom are Israeli nationals.
Also, Israel needs to reestablish deterrence. At present, Israel is viewed as vulnerable due to both the invasion of October 7 and its reliance on two US carrier strike groups currently on standby in regional waters to dissuade Iran and its proxies from widening the war. Israel will need to restore an understanding among its enemies that any attacks on its land and citizens will be met with retaliation that will impose unacceptable costs.
Lastly, a victory over Hamas would confirm that Israel is the region’s most powerful nation. Such a development would help motivate Arab countries to build on the Abraham Accords and strengthen relations with both the Jewish State and Washington in order to construct a bulwark against Tehran’s continued hostility.
Voters need to be reminded that it will not be possible to rid of the poisonous philosophy of Hamas, just as it was not feasible to destroy the ideologies of Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and Nazism. Yet, Hamas’ capabilities can be eliminated just as Nazi Germany’s were during World War II, rendering them less capable and influential.
The war against Hamas is unfortunately likely to be a long endeavor and terribly violent. Tragically, there will be additional loss of precious lives. Afterwards, Israel will need to work with the US, Arab states and the international community to both counteract Hamas’ ideas as well as to provide the resources and roadmap for peace with the Palestinians going forward.