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Biden’s Dilemma: Navigating Political Support Amid Global Conflict
Vivek Mishra
2024-02-14
Region : America,
Issue : Security, Politics,
The United States (US) Congress is currently facing an unprecedented strain, primarily due to the ongoing tug-of-war between Republicans and Democrats on a range of issues, spanning from domestic politics to international and geopolitical matters. Importantly, domestic issues now seem inseparably hyphenated with US national security and international politics.
In a recent development, President Biden’s proposal aimed at securing US$105 billion aid to Ukraine and Israel and for border security, primarily aimed at consolidating the US’ alliance commitments and bolstering America’s international standing, was thwarted by Republicans in the Senate. This obstruction stemmed from an unprecedented linkage between national security concerns, such as border security at the southern borders of the US, the influx of immigration, and international aid for Ukraine and Israel.
The two ongoing wars, one in Europe and the other in the Middle East have driven a wedge in the US Congress. The Democrats have also blocked an Israel-only bill in the US House of Representatives that sought to de-hyphenate Israel from Ukraine and provide the former with US$17.6 billion in assistance. The Senate Republicans paid back by blocking a bipartisan border deal which sought to tighten border restrictions. President Biden agreed to a rather restrictive border deal to salvage aid for a war-time Ukraine and save the democratic plank linking his party’s fundamental principles and his administration’s support to Ukraine.
While Democrats in the US Congress have tied the Biden administration’s decision to provide aid to Ukraine and Israel to the issue of border security in the South, there is also a desire among some Democrats to separate the aid to Israel and Ukraine, as the latter may garner more bipartisan support. The issue of aid to Israel is particularly complex for the administration, as some members of the Democratic Party are at odds with the ongoing conflict in Gaza and the civilian casualties it has caused.
President Biden is also under considerable pressure from certain Congressional factions who believe his policies regarding Gaza and Israel may be misguided, particularly in light of the significant civilian casualties in Gaza, which are approaching 30,000. Furthermore, US intelligence’s hint that only a third of the Hamas’ fighters may have been neutralised has set the clock ticking for Biden’s aid to Israel even as he approached a fierce campaign against Trump.
Initially, Biden’s stance on the ongoing conflict in Israel was rooted in the long-standing alliance between the two nations, with the US historically standing by Israel regardless of the domestic circumstances. This stance has been reinforced since the war began by substantial Congressional support and a robust Israel-leaning lobby in Washington. However, as Israel’s operations continue in Gaza, there is mounting pressure on the Biden administration to coerce Netanyahu to scale back. Yet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has marched on, with operations now planned for Rafah, near the Egyptian border as the last frontier.
There is a definitive shift in Biden’s approach towards the Hamas-Israel conflict, reflected through Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s multiple trips to the region over the past four months. While there remains a strong rhetoric of unwavering support for Israel, there has been a subtle softening in the narrative, indicating a more nuanced stance. The apparent pressure on President Biden is unmissable in his recent remarks suggesting that Israel’s military response in Gaza may have been “over the top” and his Executive Order against Israeli settler violence in West Bank indicate mounting pressure that Biden faces, especially given the pivotal point in his presidency. This pressure underscores the complex dynamics at play, with Biden navigating both domestic political pressures and international conflicts as he seeks to uphold America’s interests and commitments on the global stage.

Immigration
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The Biden administration has frequently been portrayed as weak on immigration and border security by Republicans. As the US approaches the presidential election in November, national security has emerged as a pivotal issue shaping the campaign strategies of both Republican and Democratic candidates. Republicans often cite statistics indicating a significantly high increase in incidents of migrant encounters along the border under the Biden administration, suggesting that their policy of fortifying the border with a wall would offer a more effective solution to the immigration problem.
Internal debates in the US often contrast the country’s immigration situation with that of Europe, with some perceiving the US as being in a comparatively better position. Unlike Europe, where immigration has been key factor in altering the socio-political balance, the US has guarded off so far. Factors for the same range from its advantageous geographic position being surrounded by sea on both sides, to the need for a more headline immigration policy. In contrast, Europe faces greater immigration pressures due to its proximity and land connectivity to regions such as the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, where conflicts often drive migration.

Biden’s dilemma
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President Biden finds himself on the horns of a dilemma, as his administration is expected to uphold its historical support for Israel, both due to past donations and the prevailing political sentiment that views any action perceived as insufficiently supportive of Israel’s security as potentially tantamount to exonerating terrorism. However, Biden also faces pressure from within his own party to delink aid to Israel and Ukraine.
On one hand, Biden is perceived as aligning more closely with Republicans regarding aid to Israel and the border deal, given its widespread support among GOP members in both the House and Congress. On the other, there is internal pressure from Democratic candidates to distinguish between aid to Israel and Ukraine, reflecting differing viewpoints within the party on how to approach international relations and conflicts.
These pressures have deeply divided the US Congress for months, and a resolution seems elusive, especially amidst the fervent political campaigns of both Democratic and Republican candidates. As the Republican primary approaches on 24 February in South Carolina, all eyes are on Trump and Haley as contenders, with Trump widely expected to secure the nomination, bolstered by his strong support and the accumulation of over 60 delegates, solidifying his position as the frontrunner for the Republican presidential candidacy.
Meanwhile, President Biden faces a different set of challenges. While he doesn’t contend with intraparty competition within the Democratic Party and only faces a distant candidate like Dean Phillips to be defeated, other concerns are looming over his candidacy as the Democratic presidential nominee. The recent blow to Biden’s polls, which have already hit record lows for a sitting president, comes in the form of a special counsel report released by the Department of Justice on 8 February. The report casts doubt on Biden’s mental acuity and fitness for office, raising questions about his age and ability to effectively serve as president. While the report may not directly impact his candidacy, it is certain to influence public perception of Biden and his ability to lead.
On the line are numerous accomplishments of the Biden administration over the past four years, including economic gains, the establishment of regulatory frameworks for cyberspace and AI, and significant infrastructure spending. Additionally, executive actions on sanctions, high-tech exports to China, and inflation reduction have marked highlights of his tenure. However, the fact that Trump consistently leads in the polls against Biden suggests that these achievements may not have resonated as strongly with the American public as hoped.
These two major conflicts have placed the Biden administration in a delicate position, torn between maintaining a strong political mandate domestically and standing by key allies like Israel in the region, as well as supporting Ukraine, which holds considerable importance for President Biden’s Democratic Party’s credentials and his administration’s principles.
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• About the author: Vivek Mishra is a Fellow with the Strategic Studies Programme at the Observer Research Foundation
This article originally appeared in the Observer Research Foundation (ORF)
The views expressed above belong to the author(s)

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