‘Defies logic’: The makings of Joe Biden’s ‘blank cheque’ to Israel

This is the first instalment of a two-part series delving into the origins of President Joe Biden’s stance on Israel. For part two, click here.

Washington, DC – In retrospect, it may have been one of Joe Biden’s most career-defining moments.

Stern-faced and with outstretched arms, the then-Democratic senator paced from left to right as he delivered an impassioned plea to his colleagues in the United States Congress. His message? Stop apologising for your support of Israel.

“There’s no apology to be made. None,” he said, pausing for dramatic effect.

“Were there not an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interest in the region. The United States would have to go out and invent an Israel.”

It was June 1986: Biden, only 43, was decades away from becoming president. But in the years since, his words have taken on near-mythic significance – repeatedly touted by Biden himself as a symbol of his pro-Israel bona fides.

Today, Biden remains – in his words – “unwavering” in his support for Israel, despite anger over its deadly military campaign in the Gaza Strip.

Some observers see his present-day stance as the product of decades spent building a reputation as one of Israel’s foremost champions in Washington, DC.

US President Joe Biden speaking from the Roosevelt Room. He is behind a lectern with flags behind him. He is making a point with his hands.
Biden delivers remarks last December in Washington, DC [Evan Vucci/AP]

That support, however, could prove to be a political liability.

The war in Gaza has elicited fears of genocide as Israel bombards the Palestinian territory and limits access to food and water. More than 26,600 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli attacks.

But Biden’s administration has blocked ceasefire resolutions at the United Nations and even bypassed Congress to increase weapons sales to Israel – pushing many experts to say he is leading one of the most staunchly pro-Israel administrations in US history.

“It’s self-destructive. It is not in the United States’s interests to be supporting a criminal, genocidal attack on Gaza. It is not in the Biden administration’s political interests to be supporting the war on Gaza,” said Raed Jarrar, advocacy director at Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), a think tank in Washington, DC.

“But President Biden has insisted against all odds and all advice … to continue the flow of arms and unconditional political support for Israel.”

So why is the administration’s support for Israel so unshakeable? Al Jazeera spoke to more than a dozen foreign policy experts, rights advocates and former US officials about the factors that underpin Washington’s position.

In this first instalment of a two-part series, we examine Biden’s personal and professional connections to Israel, forged over decades, and what his support for Israel amid the war in Gaza means for his political future.

In part two, we look at how history, domestic politics and foreign policy strategies influence the Biden administration’s stance.

Leave a Comment