‘Strategic interests’, lobby power: What influences Biden’s Israel support?

This is the second instalment in a two-part series about how the administration of President Joe Biden developed its unequivocal support for Israel. To read part one, click here.

Washington, DC – “It’s the price of waging a war.”

Those were Joe Biden’s words in late October, when the United States president was asked about civilian casualties in war-stricken Gaza.

Thousands of Palestinians had already been killed in Israel’s bombardment of the besieged enclave and United Nations officials were urging an immediate ceasefire amid a deepening humanitarian crisis.

Yet, instead of calling on Israel to show more restraint, Biden – a committed supporter of Israel – instead cast doubt on the Gaza death toll. “I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed,” he said on October 25.

The exchange was just one of many episodes since the war began on October 7 that observers say laid bare an unparalleled level of US diplomatic and military support for Israel.

The two countries have enjoyed strong ties for decades under both Democratic and Republican presidents, and the US sends Israel at least $3.8bn in military aid each year.

But anger over US foreign policy has reached a peak amid the Gaza war as the Biden administration pushes for increased arms sales and aid to Israel, despite serious human rights concerns over its military campaign.

More than 26,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, with UN experts warning of the potential for famine and genocide.

A Palestinian man stands in front of a building destroyed during Israeli bombardment around the city of Rafah in southern Gaza [AFP]

So what explains Biden’s current stance? Al Jazeera interviewed more than a dozen experts, rights advocates and former US officials about the many factors that underpin Biden’s present-day actions and his “unwavering” backing of Israel.

“I don’t think there is a short answer to the question, ‘Why does Israel continue to enjoy exceptionalism in US foreign policy?’” said Raed Jarrar, the advocacy director at Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), a think tank in Washington, DC.

“There is an all-of-the-above kind of answer.”

In this second instalment of a two-part series, we examine how history, domestic politics and US strategy in the Middle East influence the Biden administration’s policies. In part one, we explore Biden’s personal and professional ties to Israel and how his Gaza war policy could affect his political future.

“It is very deeply entrenched,” Jarrar said of US-Israel ties.

Israel, he said, has fundamentally built “a very well-oiled machine” – one that can withstand domestic and international pressure even amid the bloodshed in Gaza.

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