After the war on Gaza, a complex and contentious issue has emerged at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy and domestic politics, the future of American military support to Israel. Traditionally, the United States has been a stalwart ally of Israel, providing extensive military aid and support. However, a growing segment of the American populace and some political figures have begun to question and oppose this long-standing policy. This evolving sentiment raises significant questions about the future direction of U.S. policy toward Israel and its potential repercussions on American politics and election outcomes.

The U.S. has historically justified its support for Israel on the grounds of shared democratic values, strategic interests in the Middle East, and a mutual commitment to combat terrorism. Nonetheless, the discourse is shifting. Critics argue that continued U.S. military support for Israel exacerbates regional instability and undermines the prospects for a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They also highlight the ethical concerns regarding the use of American-made weapons in conflict zones, which could potentially implicate the U.S. in violations of international law and human rights abuses.

The internal debate within the U.S. regarding its military aid to Israel is not happening in a vacuum. It reflects broader changes in American society, including a more diverse and vocal electorate, increased activism on foreign policy issues, and a generational shift that appears less bound to traditional foreign policy orthodoxy. These dynamics are reshaping the landscape of American politics, with foreign policy becoming a more prominent and divisive issue in electoral campaigns.

The potential impact of this shift on future U.S. elections must be considered. Politicians and political parties are finding themselves at a crossroads as the American public becomes more polarized on the issue. On one hand, there remains a solid pro-Israel lobby that exerts significant influence on American politics, championing continued support for Israel. On the other hand, an emerging constituency advocates for a reevaluation of U.S. foreign aid, calling for a more balanced approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a greater emphasis on human rights and international law.

This dichotomy presents a challenge for candidates and parties. Those who traditionally support robust military aid to Israel might risk alienating a growing segment of the electorate that is skeptical of foreign interventions and concerned with human rights issues. Conversely, politicians who advocate for reducing military support to Israel must navigate the potential backlash from well-organized and influential pro-Israel groups.

The 2024 elections will likely serve as a critical juncture for this issue. Candidates’ positions on U.S. military support for Israel could become a litmus test for many voters, influencing not only the outcome of elections but also the future direction of U.S. foreign policy. If the trend of opposition to U.S. military aid to Israel continues to gain traction, it could lead to significant policy shifts, with implications for U.S.-Israel relations, regional dynamics in the Middle East, and global perceptions of American foreign policy.

The divided opinions among traditional Democratic voters highlight President Biden’s ongoing challenges in maintaining the coalition he assembled in 2020. Despite improving economic indicators and the legal issues facing his anticipated rival, former President Donald J. Trump, these challenges are expected to remain. A New York Times/Siena College poll indicates widespread dissatisfaction with President Biden’s management of the violent conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, with younger Americans being notably more critical of both Israel’s actions and the U.S. administration’s reaction to the Gaza war.

The American electorate is delivering conflicting messages about the preferred course of U.S. policy as the Gaza conflict continues into its 5th month, marked by the aftermath of the Oct. 7, the significant loss of Palestinian lives in Gaza, and efforts by the Biden administration to urge Israel to de-escalate its military operations. The public is nearly evenly divided between those who support the continuation of Israel’s military actions and those who advocate for a cessation to prevent further loss of civilian life.

This division presents President Biden with limited options that are politically viable. The Times/Siena poll’s outcomes have implications for President Biden as he approaches the 2024 election year and the future relationship between Israel and its most significant ally, the United States.

The debate over U.S. military support for Israel is more than a foreign policy issue; it is a reflection of changing attitudes within American society and politics. As this debate unfolds, it will undoubtedly shape the contours of American political discourse, influencing electoral outcomes and the future of U.S. engagement in the Middle East. The coming years will reveal whether the growing calls for a reassessment of U.S. military aid to Israel herald a new chapter in American foreign policy or if traditional alliances and policies will prevail.

Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has been granted aid from the United States totaling $330 billion, making it the foremost beneficiary of U.S. foreign assistance. The predominant emphasis of this aid is on defense and military support, with Israel receiving upwards of $3 billion in defense assistance each year.

The bulk of the assistance, amounting to about $3.3 billion annually, is allocated through the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program as grants. These funds are designated for acquiring military equipment and services from the U.S. Unlike other beneficiaries of U.S. military aid, Israel has been uniquely allowed to spend a fraction of its FMF assistance on products from its defense industries. However, this privilege is set to be gradually eliminated in the coming years. U.S. aid is estimated to constitute around 15% of Israel’s defense expenditure. Beyond FMF-funded purchases, Israel engages in additional procurement of military hardware from the U.S.

Furthermore, an annual provision of $500 million is dedicated to support Israeli and bilateral U.S.-Israeli missile defense initiatives. These collaborations focus on the innovation, development, and manufacturing of defense systems utilized by Israel, such as the Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow II systems. While Israel independently developed the Iron Dome, the partnership with the U.S. for its production began in 2014. An example of this cooperation includes the output of Tamir interceptor missiles for the Iron Dome system by the American defense contractor Raytheon at its Arizona facilities.

Public opinion polls, such as those conducted by the Pew Research Center, have indicated a growing partisan divide in the U.S. over support for Israel. This divide suggests that Israel is becoming a more polarizing issue in U.S. politics, which could affect future elections and policy decisions. The rise of progressive politicians who openly criticize U.S. military aid to Israel also signifies a shift in the political landscape, indicating that this will remain a contentious issue in upcoming electoral cycles. A survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and Ipsos from February 16 to 18, 2024, indicates that while most Americans favor a neutral stance by the United States in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an increasing number are taking sides. The divide in perspectives regarding the conflict is intensifying, especially among partisan groups and within the Democratic Party.

By examining these instances, it becomes evident that U.S. military support for Israel is not just a matter of foreign policy but also a significant domestic political issue that influences American politics and elections. These examples highlight the ongoing debate within the U.S. regarding its relationship with Israel and the broader implications for international diplomacy, human rights, and the principles guiding U.S. foreign policy. Officials from the Biden administration have expressed concern over the American public’s growing sympathy towards Palestinians in Gaza, a sentiment primarily ignored by much of the U.S. Congress. The majority of lawmakers continue to offer unwavering support for Israel, overlooking the hardships, massacres, and unspeakable tragedies faced by Palestinians. However, a significant shift in public opinion is becoming evident, potentially posing a more significant threat than the divisiveness and animosity that characterized the tenure of former President Donald Trump, who may run again in 2024. In a recent survey conducted by the progressive think tank Data for Progress From February 22 to 26, 2024 Around two-thirds of voters (67%) — including majorities of Democrats (77%), Independents (69%), and Republicans (56%) — support the U.S. calling for a permanent ceasefire and a de-escalation of violence in Gaza. Subsequently, the same question was posed to voters, this time clarifying that the United States’ advocacy for a permanent ceasefire and reduction of violence in Gaza would encompass the “liberation of Israeli hostages in Gaza.” With this specification added, the percentage of voters favoring the U.S. pushing for a permanent ceasefire rose to 74%, marking a 7-point uplift.

These findings underscore the complex interplay between domestic politics and foreign policy in the United States, particularly concerning its stance toward the war on Gaza. The data reveals a nuanced American public opinion that is increasingly empathetic towards the plight of Palestinians and supportive of measures aimed at peace and stability in the region. This shift suggests a growing expectation for U.S. foreign policy to reflect broader humanitarian concerns and a more balanced approach toward conflict resolution. As the U.S. grapples with its role on the global stage and its implications for domestic politics, the evolving public sentiment could significantly influence future policy directions and the political landscape, especially in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election. It presents an opportunity for policymakers to reconsider longstanding positions and to craft a foreign policy that better aligns with the values and aspirations of the American electorate. The challenge now lies in reconciling these changing public attitudes with the entrenched positions of the political elite. This task will undoubtedly shape the contours of U.S. involvement in the Middle East and its domestic political discourse for years to come.