One of President Biden’s top advisers told fuming Arab and Muslim American community leaders in Michigan this week that the administration has made “missteps” in its support for Israel’s war against Hamas terrorists in Gaza.
“We are very well aware that we have missteps in the course of responding to this crisis since Oct. 7,” Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer said during a Thursday meeting in Dearborn, Mich., with Muslim and Arab Americans, including state and local Democratic elected officials, according to the New York Times.
“We have left a very damaging impression based on what has been a wholly inadequate public accounting for how much the president, the administration and the country values the lives of Palestinians,” Finer added. “And that began, frankly, pretty early in the conflict.”
Finer was part of a White House delegation dispatched to Michigan ahead of the state’s Feb. 27 Democratic presidential primary, in response to growing hostility toward Biden from Muslim and Arab Americans – a sizable voting bloc in the Great Lake State – over his support of Israel’s war effort in the aftermath of last October’s massacre of 1,200 people in the Jewish state.
Dozens of elected officials and community leaders in Michigan have accused Biden, 81, of disregarding the Palestinian death toll in the conflict and have railed against him for not demanding a cease-fire.
During the meeting, Finer expressed regret that the Biden administration wasn’t stronger in condemning Israeli officials that compared “residents of Gaza to animals.”
“Out of a desire to sort of focus on solving the problem and not engaging in a rhetorical back-and-forth with people who, in many cases, I think we all find somewhat abhorrent, we did not sufficiently indicate that we totally rejected and disagreed with those sorts of sentiments,” Finer said.
He also lamented that Biden’s Jan. 14 statement marking 100 days since the Hamas attack didn’t reference the Palestinian lives lost in Gaza.
“It did not in any way address the loss of Palestinian life during the course of the first 100 days of the conflict,” Finer said. “There is no excuse for that. It should not have happened. I believe it will not happen again. But we know that there was a lot of damage done.”
The Biden aide went on to say that he has no confidence that the Israeli government will take the steps necessary to establish a Palestinian state.
“We will have to do things for Saudi Arabia that will be very unpopular in this country and in our Congress,” Finer said. “Will Israel be willing to do the hard thing that’s going to be required of them, which is meaningful steps for the Palestinians on the question of two states? I don’t know if the answer to that is yes. I do not have any confidence in this current government of Israel.”
Meeting attendees told the New York Times that they were disappointed that the Biden officials would not commit to policy changes.
Some of the attendees had previously refused to meet with Biden’s campaign manager as part of a listening tour of Muslim and Arab American concerns about the president.
More than 30 Michigan state and local officials have vowed to vote “uncommitted” in the state’s Democratic primary over Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war.
Only 17.4% of Arab American voters said they would vote for Biden in 2024, according to a John Zogby Strategies poll commissioned by the Arab American Institute last October.
In 2020, the same poll measured Arab American support for Biden at 59%.