President Joe Biden is attempting damage control as more and more polls indicate that he is losing ground with his own supporters over his steadfast support of the Israeli military campaign underway in the Gaza Strip.
A new report from The Washington Post detailed over the weekend how Mr Biden is seeking to mend fences with Palestinian-Americans and Muslim Democrats in general as he treads a fine line in his public remarks about the shockingly bloody conflict between Israel and Hamas forces in Gaza. Since a terrorist attack across southern Israel killed 1,200 last month, strikes launched by Israel’s military have killed more than 14,000 civilians within the Palestinian territory. Others have died in the West Bank.
According to the Post, the US president met with five prominent Muslim Americans a day after his 25 October remarks from the White House during which he questioned the legitimacy of statistics being released from Gaza. The US has repeatedly noted that the Gaza Health Ministry is controlled by Hamas, but has not offered any alternative statistics or information to cast doubt on the numbers released from Gaza.
In his White House address, the president had been somewhat clumsy with his denunciation of the agency, exclaiming bluntly: “I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed.”
During his meeting a day later, which reportedly lasted over an hour, Mr Biden is said to have apologised for his remarks and pledged to “do better” with his public statements regarding the conflict.
“I’m sorry. I’m disappointed in myself,” said the president, according to the Post. “I will do better.”
The Biden administration’s position on the conflict is facing deep resistance on the left, as progressive activist circles have largely rallied behind calls for a permanent ceasefire as images of the devastation in Gaza continue to flood social media. In Congress, those calls are growing as well; dozens of House lawmakers and a handful of senators are backing calls for a longer negotiated truce.
But the president has remained adamant that Israel has a right to use its military to degrade Hamas’s capability to wage the kind of attacks seen on 7 October, and so far rejected conditioning any military aid to the Israeli government. Across the US, fears of Islamophobia and antisemitism are on the rise as a 6-year-old Palestinian child was murdered in Illinois in what authorities believe was a hate crime. Over the weekend, a shooting in Vermont that left three college students of Palestinian descent seriously wounded evoked the same fears.
On Monday, it was announced that Israeli and Hamas leadership had reached an agreement to extend a four-day ceasefire which had been set to expire within the day.
The pause in the fighting had allowed for the release of dozens of Israelis taken hostage in the 7 October attack, coinciding with the release of Palestinian civilians held in Israeli prisons — including young teenagers.
Hamas militants also on Sunday released a four-year-old American girl whose parents had both been killed during that attack.