Published May 17, 2021
The ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas shows how difficult, if not impossible, it will be to settle the dispute. It also puts a spotlight on how difficult it will be for President Biden to navigate the issue within his own party.
The Democratic Party was once Israel’s unquestioned friend. President Harry S. Truman immediately recognized Israeli independence in 1948, the first world leader to do so. President Lyndon B. Johnson was strongly supportive of Israel, and moved decisively to make the United States the chief arms supplier to the nation when its traditional supplier, France, started to withdraw its backing after the 1967 Six-Day War. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton both brokered peace agreements between Israel and former Arab foes.
American Jews have also been among the Democratic Party’s staunchest voting blocs for decades. A Pew Research Center poll released last week shows this remains true despite President Donald Trump’s strenuous pro-Israel agenda. Seventy-one percent of all Jews identify with or lean toward the Democrats, compared with only 26 percent who are Republicans. The Democratic share increases once the strongly conservative Orthodox Jewish community is excluded. Half of all Jews, and more than half of the dominant Reform and nonreligious demographics, say they are political liberals.
Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.