Now that war has broken out in Israel, Vice President Joe Biden must deal with tensions on two fronts at once. This comes at a time of stagnation in Washington and growing polarisation over the future of American participation abroad.
In his campaign, Joe Biden promised people he would be better equipped than his predecessor to handle global crises like the one we are currently experiencing. Biden has a unique understanding of American foreign policy thanks to his nearly 50 years of involvement in the field.
The extent to which he can rally domestic and international allies in support of American leadership in the face of domestic turmoil and international competition for influence will be severely tested.
Within hours of Saturday’s Hamas strike, Vice President Joe Biden declared that his administration’s commitment to Israel’s security was “rock solid and unwavering.” During a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden assured Netanyahu that more aid was on the way.
It was revealed on Sunday by Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin that a US carrier strike group will be heading to the eastern Mediterranean Sea in a “deterrence posture.” Austin added in his statement that the United States “will be rapidly providing the Israel Defence Forces with additional equipment and resources” and that these choices were made after “detailed discussions with President Biden.”
However, it won’t be easy for Biden to fulfil Israel’s desire for further aid.
As the Ukrainian conflict enters its second year with little sign of resolution, a growing number of Americans are questioning whether or not they should continue to ship weapons to Kiev. According to a poll done by Reuters/Ipsos earlier this month, support for the idea that the United States “should provide weapons to Ukraine” has dropped from 46% in May to 41%.
After hardline Republicans successfully stripped billions of dollars in assistance for Ukraine from a federal spending measure, the White House was already struggling to find a way to pass more monies for Ukraine through a divided Congress before Saturday’s shocking attack on Israel. More people were on Ukraine’s side at the beginning of the war.
Since Kevin McCarthy was unexpectedly removed as speaker of the House last week, the chamber has been paralysed, and the emergency situation in Israel has occurred in unexplored legal ground.
There was strong bipartisan criticism of the Hamas attack among senators on Saturday, including those to Biden’s left who have often embraced divergent views towards Israel, suggesting that aid for Israel will be a different proposition than aid for Ukraine.
Israel is expected to request more interceptors for its Iron Dome missile defence system from the United States, according to an official.
If Biden’s administration pursues a new aid package for Israel, it will face the same strains of resistance on Capitol Hill as before.
“I consider the state of the world and all the challenges that exist, and I wonder what we are saying to our enemies when we can’t govern. When we can’t get along? when there isn’t even a leader in charge of the House?” Texas Republican and Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Michael McCaul made the statement on Sunday’s “State of the Union” on HEADLINESFOREVER.
All stories suggest that Biden and his staff were caught off guard by the recent outbreak of violence in Israel. Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, told an interviewer a little over a week ago, “The Middle East region is quieter today than it has been in two decades.”
However, he did add that “all of that can change,” and top administration officials have been expressing concern about the escalating situation in Gaza and the West Bank for weeks.
Part of the reason Biden thought he could broker peace in the Middle East was because he believed he could get Israel and Saudi Arabia to agree to establish diplomatic ties.
Even though the diplomatic situation is now inconceivably complex, administration officials refused to give up on the idea this weekend. On Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested that a possible motivation for the Hamas strikes was to sabotage the normalisation negotiations.
“That could have been part of the motivation,” he speculated to Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”
Sullivan’s remarks did, however, highlight a commonly held opinion within the administration that the Middle East was no longer playing the major role it once played in American foreign policy.
The members of Biden’s team were not alone in holding that opinion. Three different administrations have tried to shift U.S. attention away from Europe and back towards Asia in an effort to counter China’s ascent. Despite his success in brokering diplomatic arrangements between Israel and some Arab states, previous President Trump was more interested in striking economic deals with Beijing and holding summits with North Korea.
After years of Trump’s “America first” agenda, Biden made restoring the United States’ status as a global force a core plank of his campaign. He emphasised his many years of relevant experience. While his and Netanyahu’s relationship has recently deteriorated, he has repeatedly cited their decades-long friendship as a foundation for his understanding of the Israeli prime minister.
In stark contrast to the unexpected start of the Israeli conflict, the United States had been warning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for months using degraded intelligence.
A ground war in Europe is not likely to be a major foreign policy fear for even a president as long engaged in American foreign policy as Biden. Despite the peace that has prevailed in the region in recent years, a conflict in the Middle East would have looked more likely when Biden took office.
Conflict resolution in either theatre is on his agenda.
Another difficulty has emerged because the House of Representatives now lacks a permanent speaker. The House of Representatives may come to a standstill until the next speaker is elected since Acting Speaker Patrick McHenry lacks the full authority of a permanent speaker.
On Saturday, while Biden’s staff met at the White House to discuss Israel’s requirements, the issue of whether or not Congress could approve further funding without a speaker surfaced. They did not find the solution.
A high-ranking official has admitted that this is a truly “unique” circumstance, and that administration officials are currently trying to determine what is feasible.