Biden, Gaza and 2024…

The 2024 presidential race is already underway, and I am deeply concerned. Ron DeSantis, Nicky Haley, Tim Scott, Robert Kennedy Jr., Cornel West, Joe Biden… and Trump. The list sounds like the next round of Dancing with the Stars hopefuls.

Where is the candidate to inspire us? Where is the one with real leadership skills who might be able pull the divided country together?

I’m emotionally torn these days, the way so many are — feeling strong affection and appreciation for Joe Biden and yet feeling gripped simultaneously by a pounding fear that a Biden-led party will lose next year and lead to a Trumpian Götterdämmerung. Like many Americans, I’ve found myself having The Conversation over and over again, with friends, sources and people who work in Democratic politics: whether Biden is the best candidate to defeat Trump, his chances of winning, if there’s some better course.David Brooks, (New York Times)

In addition to Brooks, David Ignatius (Washington Post), Frank Bruni and Ezra Klein (New York Times) Robert Reich (The Guardian), Steve Inskeep (NPR) and Mike Allen (Axios)–all Democrats–have written columns suggesting it might be better if he dropped out.

It will be hard, but if no one else steps up, I will hold my nose and vote for Biden. None of the others has what it takes to repair what ails the country or even patch the leaking ship of state? It’s not that I don’t trust Biden or his policies. I believe in his inherent goodness, but recent actions have shown me he’s well past his pull date–as the list of political columnists above has eloquently and persuasively written.

I can’t overstate my disappointment with “Scranton Joe.” I think he did a creditable job as Obama’s wingman and liaison to a dysfunctional Congress, and early in his presidency he pushed through some remarkable legislation on infrastructure. But recently he’s shown how clueless and tone deaf he is. Inviting his criminally charged son Hunter and wife to a White House state dinner awash in photographers was a ridiculous gaffe. Then, he does nothing about his German Shepherd, Commander, until after he’s bitten ten of the White House staff, mostly Secret Service. Finally, last week, after number eleven he was sent back to Delaware. But that’s minor compared to his owner’s recent lapses of judgment.

His decision to visit Israel following the slaughter of Israelis by Hamas vigilantes was the last straw for me. It wasn’t a diplomatic move–to broker a settlement or show solace for the victims. He was there to show America’s whole-hearted support for Israel, including gifts of military equipment and $14 Billion. Standing beside Benjamin Netanyahu, the far-right, corrupt, under indictment Prime Minister, he pledged 100% American support for the PM’s determination to level Gaza as retribution for the Hamas attack. It eerily reminded me of Trump standing next to Putin in Helsinki where he said “I don’t see why it would have been Russia.

It’s true, Israel is a long time American ally, but Netanyahu is shifty. He needs a win here in order to shore up his fragile political coalition, and the Middle East is a powder keg. The PM and Israel’s quickly assembled War Council are behaving like bullies. Palestinians, including those in Gaza and on the West Bank, were dealt an unplayable hand in 1948. Nobody should be treated as they have been.

In the early 60s I admired Israel’s grit and achievements. I’m not even Jewish but I naively wrote and asked about becoming an Israeli Air Force pilot, because I thought it was the best in the world at the time.

But in 1965 I saw my first Palestinian refugee camp–in Beirut–and knew the situation was untenable. Seven thousand Palestinians were still living in tin shacks 17 years after they were displaced by the founders of Israel. It was only a matter of time. I knew there was a violent confrontation coming.

For the first 50 years, PMs like Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin, and Shimon Peres made good faith efforts to find a solution to the Palestinian problem, but for the last 27 years, since Netanyahu’s first term, Israel has turned his back on peaceful resolution by refusing to negotiate, encouraging Jewish settlements on the West Bank and rebuffing outside diplomatic efforts to find a two state solution.

The US couldn’t stop what happened on October 7th. Neither could Israel. Their flawed intelligence failed them. And the Hamas incursion, two years in the planning, was executed with stunning force and bloody success.

I believe Biden should have acknowledged its depravity and given Israel words of support but stayed away. Instead, he pledged America’s full throated support while pledging arms and money to support the wealthiest and most advanced military in the Middle East. Israel doesn’t need our money–Ukraine does. In fact, the biggest loser in the Israel/Hamas conflict is probably Ukraine.

Over the weekend, Israel launched its long anticipated ground assault on Gaza. Hamas killed 1400 Israelis in their surprise cross border attack on October 7th. Since then, 8300 Gazan civilians have died, roughly 70% of them women and children, from constant, continuing Israeli air attacks–even before the current ground invasion. Israel vs. Gaza will never be fair fight. War is never a solution. Israel is a rich, powerful, military and nuclear power. Gaza is a tiny, disorganized patch of land with two million inhabitants governed by a terrorist organization. But Gazan civilians are not Hamas. They deserve better than what they’re getting from either side at this point. They are as much hostages as the 222 Israelis being held prisoner.

America should do everything it can to find a diplomatic solution, but Joe Biden needs to step back from his 1960 view of Israel and let the diplomats have a chance to resolve the Israel-Gaza conflict. The United Nations has called for a ceasefire. So has the European Union. Even prominent Jewish leaders in America have. Criticism of Israel is not antisemitic. They shouldn’t be conflated. When friends make mistakes it’s important to call them out.

I’m looking for an inspiring leader to vote for in 2024–one with fresh ideas. I don’t see him or her yet, but things could change. If they don’t I’ll cast what may be my final presidential vote for Joe Biden. The others are third tier wannabes and a twice-impeached, four times indicted, mob boss-like former president.


  1. Jack,

    I pretty much agree with you but find the prospect of changing horses in the middle of the river (I think) to be too risky. Harris IMO would lose to Trump because of racism and misogyny (remembering Hillary in 2016). A primary challenge to Biden would likely have the same damaging effect that Teddy Kennedy had on Carter’s reelection in 1980.

    I have my favorite Biden alternatives (Sherrod Brown, Michael Bennet, Mitch Landrieu) but I think the timing is wrong for any of them (and I’m not a Newsom fan). I also think that as much as I like Elizabeth Warren, she makes a better contribution in her current role in the Senate.

    I don’t know how or if it can be communicated in a campaign, but if Biden is doing the work I hope, he is cultivating the next generation of Democratic leadership with Cabinet and other senior appointments who will emerge in the next election cycle. Biden is certainly not perfect, but considering the landmark legislation that he has been able to pass with a dysfunctional Congress, he must have some pretty talented folks on his team.

    Regarding how he has conveyed support for Israel, I wouldn’t want to hug Bibi in my darkest nightmares, but support for Ukraine funding may have to be linked to more money to Israel.

    I keep returning to the 1947 UN General Assembly resolution to create two states and the 1948 ‘Nakba’ of Palestinians as foundational to the last 75 years of conflict. Rabin was the last chance Israel had for a two state solution when Yigal Amir, an Israeli right wing fanatic, assassinated him in 1995 and is still celebrated for it.

    I wish that — in both the U.S. and Israel — a transformational figure like Mandela were to emerge. But I”m not seeing anyone like that at this time. Here in the U.S., William Barber is the only person I’ve heard recently who might meet my criteria.

    (Finally, not being a big dog fan, I would have sent Commander packing after the first or second bite).

  2. You hit this one out of the park’
    I too have conflicted thoughts about Biden in 2024. I too feel that Biden should never have gone to Israel & promised support. Thank you Jack for your piece!
    Jan Ferrera

  3. Thank you Jack. You have described the best capture I’ve seen of this tragic interaction of Israel and Hamas.
    My best thoughts for you and yours.

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