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After Michigan primary, Democrats watch for Biden to thread the needle on Israel and Gaza

PoliticsAfter Michigan primary, Democrats watch for Biden to thread the needle on Israel and Gaza

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Democrats will be watching President Biden warily on Thursday night to see how – and if – he broaches the topic of Israel and Gaza in his State of the Union address.

The left’s deep divisions over the issue were put on full display last week when more than 100,000 Michigan primary voters selected “uncommitted” over Biden – raising alarms about his chances of holding onto a state he won by just over 150,000 votes in 2020.

The movement in Michigan and other battleground states comes in protest of the Biden administration’s stance on the war between Israel and Hamas. Progressives and left-wing hard-liners have been pushing Biden to take a more aggressive stance against Israel’s invasion of Gaza, citing the tens of thousands of lives lost and the humanitarian crisis developing in the region.

More moderate Democrats, however, insist the president stand by Israel’s mission to eradicate Hamas.

The divide is on full display even in the House of Representatives, where lawmakers gave Fox News Digital varied answers on how Biden could walk the tightrope successfully on Thursday.

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Biden at counties conference in DC

President Biden’s stance on Israel is under scrutiny by Democrats. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Rep. Dan Kildee, a Michigan Democrat, said he wants to see Biden more explicitly condemn Israel’s actions in Gaza. He cited reports of Biden’s tense relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which has only been exacerbated by the war.

“I think it’s an opportunity for him to speak directly to the American people and speak with clarity on his position. It’s interesting … I happen to share the view of many of the people who feel like Israel’s prosecution of the war is unfounded,” he said. “But I think the president’s view is not as one-dimensional as some would approach it. In fact, more recently, tension between himself and Netanyahu was getting some attention. So, I think it’s important that he speak to it, and he speak with clarity.”

Another Michigan Democrat, Rep. Debbie Dingell, took it a step further and urged Biden to call for a temporary cease-fire in his speech.

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Rep. Debbie Dingell sits at bench during committee hearing

Michigan Democrat Rep. Debbie Dingell said she wants to see Biden call for a temporary cease-fire. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“I’ve been hoping he’ll announce [a temporary cease-fire] every day. But I think we all are concerned about getting the hostages home and getting humanitarian aid,” she said. “Nobody can look at the death of [thousands of] children and not have a heart that hurts.”

On the other hand, Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y., urged Biden to stand strongly behind Israel during his speech.

“Of course, we understand all the different humanitarian concerns, but we need the president to be very strong and supportive of Israel’s objective because Hamas is not some loose confederation of desert soldiers. They are a sophisticated, disciplined terror army that wants to destroy Israel and kill Jews,” Suozzi said.

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Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., took a more middling approach and simply said Biden should thread the needle by proposing a strategy “for ending the cycle of terrorism and war and moving us to a resolution of the underlying political problems.”

Tom Suozzi

New York Rep. Tom Suozzi said he wants Biden to stick by Israel. (AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)

Israel has pledged to continue its war until Hamas is eradicated. The conflict ignited in response to a surprise invasion by Hamas militants on Oct. 7 when over 1,000 people – mostly Israeli civilians – were slaughtered.

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The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between fighters and civilians, has said more than 30,000 Palestinians have died during Israel’s response.

It’s not immediately clear if Biden plans to address the conflict in his State of the Union address. The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.

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