Biden, Ocasio-Cortez meet as Israel policy vexes some liberals

By Thomson Reuters Apr 22, 2024 | 4:59 PM

TRIANGLE, Virginia/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden on Monday met with U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and two other prominent liberal lawmakers opposed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Gaza bombing campaign.

The meeting came as Biden’s support for Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack has divided Democrats, fraying Biden’s coalition of voters ahead of November’s presidential election.

Biden was seen walking into the Oval Office with Ocasio-Cortez as well as Senators Bernie Sanders and Ed Markey after returning aboard the Marine One helicopter to the White House from an Earth Day event they all attended in Virginia.

The lawmakers have sharply criticized Israel’s policies, with Ocasio-Cortez last month describing the humanitarian situation in Gaza as like “an unfolding genocide.”

Still, the congresswoman from New York earlier this month made a case for Biden’s reelection despite his support for Israel, citing a “a vested interest in protecting democracy not just here domestically, but globally,” in an interview with the media organization Zeteo.

“I learned a long time ago to listen to that lady,” Biden said of Ocasio-Cortez in Virginia. “We’re going to talk more about another part of the world, too.”

The White House and the lawmakers declined to comment on the subject of the meeting.

Earlier on Monday, Biden said he condemned “antisemitic protests” but also “those who don’t understand what’s going on with the Palestinians.” His administration has maintained support for Israel but put increasing emphasis on the Palestinian humanitarian situation in recent months.

Israel’s assault on Gaza began after Hamas Islamists attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200, according to Israeli tallies. Israel’s military offensive has killed 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

Human rights advocates have reported a general rise in bias and hate incidents against Jews, Arabs and Muslims. There was particular concern in recent days, with the Jewish holiday of Passover beginning on Monday evening.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Trevor Hunnicutt; editing by Jonathan Oatis)