Updated Mar 1, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Biden's airdrops to Gaza bitterly divide pro-Israel lawmakers

President Joe Biden, wearing a dark blue suit, white shirt and light blue tie.

President Biden. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Pro-Israel members of Congress found themselves harshly fractured along party lines on Friday over President Biden's decision to airdrop aid to Gaza.

Why it matters: Israel is an issue that often brings together Republicans and centrist Democrats, but even the most pro-Israel Democrats have been increasingly wary of the devolving humanitarian crisis in the region.

Driving the news: Biden said Friday the airdrops will begin "in the coming days" as he also presses Israel to facilitate the flow of more aid into Gaza.

  • "Aid flowing to Gaza is nowhere nearly enough," Biden said, also floating a possible Marine corridor to allow more aid to be transported by land.
  • The announcement came as Biden faces growing pressure in the U.S. and abroad to reign in the Israeli war effort, Axios' Barak Ravid and Laurin Whitney-Gottbrath reported.
  • It also followed an incident in which over 100 Palestinian civilians were killed around an aid convoy in northern Gaza on Thursday.

What they're saying: "I support this move by the president," Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.), one of the most pro-Israel Democrats in Congress, told Axios in a statement.

  • "We have to explore all possible paths to get aid into Gaza, especially since we know Hamas doesn't care about the people of Gaza," he said.
  • Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) said: "I fully support any and all attempts to deliver urgently needed humanitarian aid to Palestinians in distress."
  • Rep. Kathy Manning (D-N.C.) told Axios: "I support President Biden's decision to air-drop aid into Gaza."

The other side: Republicans who spoke out about the airdrops were uniformly opposed, with many citing the risk of the aid falling into Hamas' hands.

  • Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) told Axios: "If it gets to the children that's great but the problem we have had in the past is aid gets to the enemy."
  • Others cited the Israeli war effort. "We didn't send aid to Germany and Japan in 1944. Let Israel finish the fight with Hamas and then send aid. Sending aid now helps Hamas," said Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.).

Zoom in: Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) posited that Biden is "basing his foreign policy on a Michigan election that he's going to lose."

  • More than 100,000 people voted "uncommitted" in Michigan's Democratic primary on Tuesday in protest of Biden's support for Israel, spooking many Democrats about their general election odds in the key swing state.
  • "Our allies deserve better," Banks said.

Between the lines: Some Democrats who support the plan signaled they are attuned to the risk of diversion but do not see it as an insurmountable obstacle.

  • Rep. Greg Landsman (D-Ohio) told Axios that "establishing command and control for all humanitarian aid partners will be critical" for ensuring aid goes to civilians, also calling for additional humanitarian corridors.
  • "There is way too much on-the-ground guessing, too much unnecessary confusion," he said.
  • Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) told Axios he supports the airdrops but also said Congress "must act" to free the hostages in Gaza and "crush Hamas."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include an additional statement.

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