If Afghanistan is the “graveyard of empires,” the Israel-Palestine conflict has too often been the place where the foreign-policy aspirations of U.S. presidents go to die. Joe Biden, who became a U.S. senator ten months prior to the 1973 Yom Kippur War, does not want to make the same mistake as his predecessors.
As tensions rose and ultimately violence broke out between Israelis and Palestinians over the past several weeks, pressure grew for the U.S. to play, as it has in the past, an active role in seeking a solution. Israelis and Palestinians, Democrats and Republicans, and leaders around the world were anxious to see how the new president would differentiate himself from his predecessor, Donald Trump, but also perhaps from the heavily pro-Israel stance of other prior administrations.
For most of the past two weeks, as the conflict followed old patterns of escalation leading to barrages of rockets fired at Israel by Hamas, the use of heavy weaponry by Israel against what they asserted were military targets and disproportionate losses by the Palestinians, a new chorus in Washington among members of Biden’s own party grew louder. Senators like Sanders, Warren, and Menendez called for more conditionality on aid to Israel. Members of Congress like representatives Tlaib, Ocasio-Cortez, and Omar called for more support for the rights of Palestinians who, once again, were dying at a rate almost 20 times higher than that of the Israelis.