Biden’s abiding support for Israel will lose him the election  

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Biden’s abiding support for Israel will lose him the election  

Storm clouds have been looming over President Biden’s reelection hopes for months.  

He is losing support among some of his core constituents — young voters and people of color — in no small measure owing to his unwavering support for Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza.

By vigorously denouncing the International Criminal Court after its prosecutor called for arrest warrants to be issued for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden has just taken another step in risking not only his own presidency but the future of American democracy. 

In March, more than 100,000 voters went to the polls in Michigan — a state Biden must almost certainly win to have a path to 270 Electoral College votes — and cast their ballots for “uncommitted,” in response to an Arab American-led effort to demonstrate dissatisfaction with Biden’s support for Israel’s Gaza offensive, which the International Court of Justice has ruled may amount to genocide. This dramatic display of dissent toward an incumbent president was replicated in other swing states, including Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, as well as in states nationwide: North Carolina, Minnesota, Hawaii, Massachusetts and more.  

In April, thousands of students at over 200 universities engaged in sustained demonstrations or formed encampments on their campuses to demand divestment from Israel — the most widespread act of campus protest in more than 30 years. The resemblances to student teach-ins during the Vietnam War, including the violent police repression that ensued, are impossible to ignore.

The conventional wisdom that foreign policy does not influence national elections increasingly seems like it will not hold this time around. The death and destruction unfolding in Gaza is being witnessed by young Americans on their phones in real time. They are reacting in disgust both to what they are seeing and to the Biden administration’s continued unwillingness to stop arming Israel’s military campaign.

All this is sparking domestic dissent in a way few world events have before. Biden’s campaign is reportedly dismissing the polling data at its own risk, and at the risk of all those who fear what another presidential term for Donald Trump would mean for the direction of the country and world.

The evidence is mounting that his stance is alienating voters he will need in November. An alarming New York Times poll in mid-May found Biden lagging significantly in the battleground states he won in 2020, with voters opposed to his stance on Gaza contributing to the dropoff. A Zeteo/Data for Progress poll from May 8 found that 56 percent of Democrats and a plurality of independents believe Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. A CNN poll from April 29 found 81 percent of voters under 35 disapprove of Biden’s handling of Israel’s attacks against Palestinians. And a Quinnipiac survey of voters from May 27 found that, among Biden 2020 voters who are not committed to voting for him in 2024, 60 percent believe he has been too supportive of Israel, while just 4 percent say he has not been supportive enough.  

I’ve been polling Arab American and Democratic voters for three decades. The drop in support for Biden among core constituencies is unlike anything I’ve seen. For the first time in 26 years, a majority of Arab Americans do not claim to prefer the Democratic Party, and only 17 percent say they would cast a ballot for Biden, compared to the 59 percent who supported him in 2020.   

The voters Biden is losing due to his stance on Gaza are voters who care deeply about values the Democratic Party has traditionally claimed to stand for. Those values are now leading them away from Biden. Voters who care deeply about racial justice here in the U.S. hear the racist, genocidal comments toward Palestinians made by Israeli leaders. Voters who care deeply about food insecurity and poverty here in the U.S. see Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war in Gaza. Voters who care deeply about women’s rights here see the stories of Palestinian women who are giving birth without anesthesia because Israel’s military has restricted humanitarian aid and medical supplies into Gaza and systematically targeted the healthcare system.   

The recent history of presidential elections has taught us that razor-thin margins are the difference between victory and defeat. With Biden trailing in all battleground states, according to FiveThirtyEight’s average of polls, he can hardly afford to lose core voters who say they will stay home or vote third-party to express their dissatisfaction.  

Neither leaks about Biden’s supposed private anger at Netanyahu nor his hesitant move to temporarily pause one weapons shipment to Israel while continuing the flow of other arms, are likely to change the perception among these voters that he is not listening to their concerns. To win them back, he needs to take major steps, and use his immense leverage to bring about a ceasefire in Gaza. That means an immediate end to weapons transfers to Israel, as United States law already requires. 

In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s foreign policy catastrophe in Vietnam tore the Democratic coalition apart and opened the door for the Republican presidential nominee, Richard Nixon, to win the general election and assume the presidency. Like many Americans, I fear what a second Trump presidency would mean for our collective future. As voters sour on President Biden’s continual support for Israel’s war in Gaza, he must change course now or risk a disastrous outcome in November.  

James Zogby is president of the Arab American Institute and a member of the Democratic National Committee since 1993.