May 10, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Biden's big donors fume over Israel criticism

A screenshot of an email sent by Biden donor Haim Saban.

Obtained by Axios

President Biden has become increasingly critical of Israel — and some of his campaign's biggest pro-Israel donors are becoming more critical of him.

Why it matters: Whether he is aiding or criticizing Israel, every move Biden makes has potential negative political consequences.

Driving the news: Democratic megadonor and Israeli American Haim Saban emailed senior White House officials Wednesday asking them to pass along his criticism of Biden's recent move to pause bomb shipments to Israel over a possible ground operation in Rafah.

  • "Bad, Bad, Bad, decision, on all levels, Pls reconsider," he wrote in a message obtained by Axios and other news outlets.
  • He added: "Let's not forget that there are more Jewish voters, who care about Israel, than Muslim voters that care about Hamas."
  • The Biden campaign declined to comment.

In February, Saban hosted a fundraiser for Biden's re-election bid at his Los Angeles home.

  • He said at the time that he had a private conversation with the president and that "Biden cares deeply about Israel, it's in his kishkes."

Between the lines: The public feud highlights the divisions within the Democratic Party that have erupted since Hamas' attack on Israeli civilians on October 7.

  • Biden's initial embrace of Israel and its government prompted some of his supporters to protest him around the country.
  • At the same time, many pro-Israel donors rallied around Biden's re-election and helped him build his current financial advantage over former President Trump.

Zoom in: Biden has become more critical of Israel Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu's conduct of the war and this week said the U.S. wouldn't supply offensive weapons if Israel invades Rafah.

  • In response, some donors and influential pro-Israel voices have grown more critical, though not as publicly as Saban.
  • Mark Mellman, the president and CEO of the influential group Democratic Majority for Israel, told Axios that "there has never been a president more pro-Israel than Joe Biden but at the same time we are very concerned about what appears to be a significant shift in US policy."
  • He added: "There are a lot of people in the pro-Israel community who are very worried, very upset and very angry."
  • "We don't know what the consequences are going to be politically."
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