Despite recent calls to protect hospitals by President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, discomfort within the Democratic Administration over the White House’s unconditional support for the Israeli offensive in Gaza is growing. More than 400 federal employees, from across 40 government department and agencies, have signed an open letter urging Biden to call for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and to pressure Israel to allow humanitarian aid into the besieged enclave. The letter, which was sent to the White House on Tuesday, is the latest in an already long list of complaints since the war started, including three internal memos to Blinken from dozens of State Department workers and another letter signed by more than 1,000 employees of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
On Monday, Biden said that he expects that “there will be less intrusive action relative to the hospitals” in Gaza, after being asked by reporters whether he had expressed concern to Israel about the high number of civilian casualties in the Strip. Gaza’s hospitals “must be protected,” he added. Blinken, for his part, said on Friday that “much more” must be done to protect civilians in Gaza and that “far too many Palestinians” have died in the conflict.
The letter’s signatories include a majority of political appointees, but also career civil servants, representatives of various religious denominations and employees in numerous government agencies, including the FBI, the National Security Council and the Department of Justice. The document begins by denouncing the October 7 Hamas attacks in southern and eastern Israel, which sparked the war on Gaza, and then calls on Biden to help stop the bloodshed. “We call on President Biden to urgently demand a cease-fire; and to call for de-escalation of the current conflict by securing the immediate release of the Israeli hostages and arbitrarily detained Palestinians; the restoration of water, fuel, electricity and other basic services; and the passage of adequate humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip,” the letter states.
The dichotomy between the Biden administration’s support for Israel’s war in Gaza and public opinion is a rift that seems to be widening by the minute. Some of the letter’s signatories helped Biden get elected in 2020. Now, they remind Biden that the Democratic critical mass — voters who will be crucial for his reelection bid in the 2024 election, which Republican Donald Trump leads in five key states — rejects the president’s stance on the war. “The overwhelming majority of Americans support a ceasefire,” the letter states, picking up on an October poll that showed that 66% of Americans, including 80% of Democrats, believe the U.S. should pressure Israel for a ceasefire.
In parallel to the clamor in the streets and on university campuses, where pro-Palestinian demonstrations are taking place, discontent is also evident at the top level of the Democratic administration. Representative Rashida Tlaib, the only Congresswoman of Palestinian origin, went further in her criticism and recently accused Biden of contributing to a “genocide” in Gaza by supporting Israel. The comment led her to be censured in the chamber, but also, more importantly, exposed growing divisions within the U.S. electorate. Support for Israel — which was high at the beginning of the crisis in October — has receded among the American public, especially among young Democrats and the more progressive or left-wing faction of the party. Representing that group are Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley (Massachusetts), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nydia Velazquez (New York) and Tlaib (Michigan), who participated in a press conference on Capitol Hill Monday night to discuss a legislative measure for a ceasefire in Gaza.
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