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Biden’s Mixed Messaging on Israel Confuses Friends and Foes Alike

Gabby Deutch
Jewish Insider, June 5, 2024

“… his frequent criticism of Israel’s military tactics does not go far enough to appease left-wing Democrats unhappy with Biden’s overall support for Israel; meanwhile, his outreach to the anti-Israel segment of the party irritates Jewish voters and pro-Israel moderates.”

On Tuesday morning, Time magazine published the full transcript of its recent Oval Office interview with President Joe Biden, conducted a week prior. One line quickly went viral among Middle East experts: When asked whether Biden believes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is prolonging the country’s war with Hamas to further his own political survival, Biden said the answer might be yes. “There is every reason for people to draw that conclusion,” the president responded.

Hours later, Biden appeared to reverse himself on that sentiment. A reporter shouted a question at Biden as he left an event: Is Netanyahu “playing politics” with the war? “I don’t think so. He’s trying to work out a serious problem he has,” Biden said.
That Biden’s public reversal took place in a single day made the incident especially notable, even for an 81-year-old gaffe-prone president known for speaking off-the-cuff (much to the chagrin of his staffers). But it was not the first time onlookers were confused by his comments on the Middle East.

The White House’s pattern of contradicting itself over Israel’s war against Hamas has become a regular occurrence since October. Interpreting what the administration’s precise policy is at any given moment can take Talmudic levels of parsing, and clarifying whether Biden’s often-vague language reflects a change in message, or is simply a function of misspeaking, is a frequent challenge for journalists.

Stakeholders and experts describe a White House approach rooted in a desire to appease divergent and at times conflicting constituencies, stemming from difficult political realities at home and a fear that the bloody conflict in Gaza will still be raging as Election Day approaches. But trying to make everyone happy is often a self-defeating strategy in Washington, especially on one of the most divisive issues in politics.… [To read the full article, click here]

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