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  • Writer's pictureDahlia Foundation

Biden’s Israel trip displays ‘performative’ approach to Gaza war: analysts

Washington, DC – As the war in Gaza nears the end of its second week, analysts say United States President Joe Biden is increasingly acting like a wartime leader, offering a “performative” show of strength and support for Israel.

Biden visited Israel on Wednesday to back its military campaign in Gaza despite growing calls for a ceasefire.

“I’m here to tell you that terrorists will not win. Freedom will win,” Biden said in remarks reminiscent of the speeches of former President George W Bush after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Experts say Biden is attempting to appeal to his domestic audience ahead of the 2024 elections and dodge Republican criticisms that would frame him as “weak”.

George Bisharat, a professor at the University of California College of the Law, San Francisco, said Biden’s approach to the Gaza war — including the visit to Israel — has an “element of political performance”.

“This is ‘Sleepy Joe’ proving that he’s awake, that he’s an expert on foreign policy,” Bisharat told Al Jazeera, invoking former President Donald Trump’s nickname for Biden.

“Of course, most of the time, American voters don’t really care very much about foreign policy; they don’t vote on foreign policy grounds. But wartime is an exception. This, in a way, is an opportunity to kind of flex muscles without the actual concrete costs to American soldiers in particular.”

The conflict in Gaza began on October 7, when Hamas issued a surprise attack against Israel from the besieged Palestinian territory, killing more than 1,300 people and taking dozens captive.

Israel responded with a declaration of war the following day. It has since led a continuous bombing campaign that has killed at least 3,785 Palestinians, including hundreds of children in Gaza.

Analysts say Biden’s vocal solidarity for Israel stems in part from his personal affinity for the US ally. The president is a self-described Zionist and a lifelong Israel supporter.

But Biden’s decision to back Israel’s military campaign in Gaza has raised questions about previous pledges he made to centre human rights in his foreign policy agenda.

‘Theatre’ of war

Washington has sent two aircraft carrier strike groups to the region in an effort to “deter” a wider conflict, should forces like Iran and the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah consider intervening.

The US president also said in an interview with CBS News last week that Hamas must be eliminated, pledging to provide Israel with the military aid it needs to carry out its war.

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