Why Biden’s Red Line On Rafah is Too Little Too Late… and Not Enough

President Joe Biden’s decision to suspend some munitions to Israel has sparked controversy. This decision arises amidst Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s continued unwillingness to pause the long planned invasion of Rafah. Due to the timing of Biden’s decision, it raises questions about its significance. Does this decision represent a meaningful change in policy or is it just a symbolic gesture to appease opponents of the administration’s support for Israel and stance in the war? 

With a presidential election fast approaching, public perception of Joe Biden’s handling of this war has become a major factor. Currently, President Biden is polling behind his opponent, former President Donald Trump, in several polls, including ones in key swing states like Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, and Nevada. Support for President Joe Biden among young people, a traditionally key demographic for the Democratic Party, has dropped precipitously because of his handling of the war on Gaza. This drop in support is not only concerning for him because he needs their votes in November but also because he needs more energetic young volunteers and staffers to run his campaign. Without them, his organization will struggle to reach voters and compete effectively in the 2024 election. 

Losing these key voters may have influenced Biden’s decision to suspend some munitions; however, it is still clearly not enough. Most importantly, one central question remains: has Biden actually stopped sending bombs to Israel? Additionally, is this recent decision impactful in the war and for the safety of civilians in the region? 

The answer is no. In fact, on Wednesday, May 15th, Biden informed legislators on Capitol Hill of his plan to send over $1 billion, all funded by the US taxpayer, in the form of tank ammunition, tactical vehicles, and mortar rounds. This signifies his unwillingness to continue his pause in munitions and cease his support for Israel. Additionally, while Biden is pausing some 3,000 munitions with this recent decision, including some of the 2,000 pound bombs the Israeli Defense Force used throughout the war to systematically devastate the neighborhoods of Gaza, this is less impactful than it may seem. It may sound substantial, but it is not when you consider that the IDF has dropped approximately 300,000 bombs, missiles, and shells in its ongoing destruction of Gaza. With this context, the 3,000 munitions that President Biden is pausing is merely a drop in the bucket. 

Netanyahu, along with his government and military, have consistently stated that they will not consider the war on Gaza resolved until Hamas is completely destroyed. The Israeli Prime Minister maintains the position that an invasion of Rafah, the location he alleges two battalions of Hamas’s military wing are stationed, is necessary to achieve this end. However, until recently, approximately 1.3 million refugees crowded into the Southern town, having fled cities across the Gaza Strip. Biden’s decision comes after at least 35,000 Palestinians in Gaza were killed, 70% of those killed are women and children. It also comes after the murder of aid workers from World Central Kitchen who had partnered with the US and Israeli government to distribute food aid to starving Palestinians. It has struck hospitals, schools, news agencies and United Nations buildings. With civilians in Gaza now struggling with famine with little to no aid, and President Biden’s complicity in this famine in question, even Biden’s decision to pause the sending of some munitions appears both not enough and too late? If the actions of the Israeli government and military haven’t crossed a red line, what could?