Updated Apr 4, 2024 - World

Tide turns sharply against Israel's war in Gaza


Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Israel's killing of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers has the makings of a watershed moment in Washington, rapidly accelerating a months-long decline in U.S. support for the war in Gaza.

Why it matters: President Biden called for an "immediate ceasefire" Thursday and told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that future U.S. policy "will be determined by our assessment of Israel's immediate action" on addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and protecting aid workers.

  • "If we don't see changes from their side, there will have to be changes from our side," White House spokesperson John Kirby warned, demanding that Israel take tangible steps in the "coming hours and days."
  • It's the closest that Biden — or any U.S. president — has ever come to conditioning aid to Israel, an unthinkable prospect when the war in Gaza began six months ago.

Zoom in: Outrage over the Israeli strikes that killed members of José Andrés' world-renowned nonprofit bubbled over Tuesday, with Biden issuing a statement torching Israel for failing to protect civilians and aid workers.

  • Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Biden's closest ally in the Senate, said on CNN Thursday that the U.S. should condition its aid if Israel invades Rafah without a humanitarian plan: "I've never said that before. I've never been here before," Coons added.
  • Former Obama aides Jon Favreau and Ben Rhodes sharply criticized Biden after a Politico report described him as "privately enraged" by the WCK strikes: "These stories only make him look weak," Favreau argued.
  • Richard Haass, a pillar of the foreign policy establishment, called Thursday for the U.S. to consider "sanctions" on Israel: "I'm sorry it's come to this," the former diplomat said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Biden's favorite program.
  • Even first lady Jill Biden has urged her husband to "stop [the war], stop it now," Biden privately recounted at a meeting with Muslim community members on Tuesday.

The big picture: 55% of Americans said in a Gallup poll last month that they disapprove of Israel's actions in Gaza — crossing the majority threshold for the first time, even before the new wave of outrage over the WCK strikes.

  • Andrés, who has close links to the White House and spoke with Biden after the deadly strike, has galvanized the outrage against Israel.
  • He has accused Israel of deliberately targeting WCK's workers. Israel's military called the strike a tragic accident.

The intrigue: Former President Trump twice evaded questions from radio host Hugh Hewitt Thursday about whether he still stands "100% with Israel."

  • "They're losing the PR war. They're losing it big," Trump warned.
  • "But they've got to finish what they started, and they've got to finish it fast, and we have to get on with life."

As of this moment, U.S. policy on Israel has not changed. The Biden administration approved the transfer of thousands of bombs to Israel on the same day of the WCK strikes, the Washington Post reports.

  • But having stated unequivocally that he will change his policy on the war if Israel doesn't, Biden will now be under pressure to follow through.

Go deeper: Israeli war Cabinet member Benny Gantz calls for early elections

Go deeper