It will be remembered, I hope, as the hug that sank a craven president.
It was mid-October. US President Joe Biden made the requisite pilgrimage to Tel Aviv to show that his staunch support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not simply rhetorical.
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His grateful host, fidgety with excitement, waited for Biden to emerge from the bulging hull of Air Force One.
Apart from the loud harangues of a throng of nearby journalists, the whir of the White House-in-the-sky’s engines muffled much of the chatter below. Netanyahu nodded to his companion, President Isaac Herzog, as an army of stoic Israeli and American bodyguards stood by – at the ready.
After a minute or so, Biden appeared with his trademark aviator sunglasses in hand. He paused for a moment at the top of the aircraft’s steps to reach out to Netanyahu, like an expectant bride to his groom.
Then, looking pale and tired, Biden walked down the aisle – as it were – and towards his beaming beau. The pair embraced, with Biden patting Netanyahu on the back. The delighted prime minister said something. Biden offered a short, perfunctory reply.
As hugs between politicians go, this one seemed long and sincere. Israel’s indispensable patron had arrived in person to verify, once more, that America stood with and by its equally indispensable ally.
But whether Biden and his camp knew it or not, in that instant the president’s already precarious political fate may have been sealed by an image now fixed in consciousness and memory – the unintended consequence of an act of “bro”-like solidarity on an airport tarmac in Israel.
The unmistakable irony, of course, is that Biden had rushed to Tel Aviv to confirm his comradery with an indicted authoritarian whom, for years, he had treated with wariness and, on occasion, contempt.
Bygones were apparently bygones.
Still, weeks later, “the hug” has emerged as a defining symbol of Biden’s blatant hypocrisy and obstinacy.
A president who has denounced Russia’s ruthless aggression and outrages in Ukraine now defends – without reservation – Israel’s ruthlessness in Gaza and beyond, while, remarkably, extolling the necessity and virtues of the cataclysmic outrages being committed largely against Palestinian children, the infirm, and the elderly by America’s indispensable ally.
Biden’s hypocrisy and obstinacy have not only offended but also infuriated crucial constituencies – young Democrats and Arab Americans, among others – that the ageing commander-in-chief must carry if he intends to win re-election in less than 12 months from today.
Recent polling suggests that Biden and myopic company have underestimated the breadth and visceral depth of the potent reaction to his unqualified backing of Israel and warm embrace of a media-savvy, calculating politician that millions of Israelis cannot abide.
Biden’s approval rating has plummeted to a treacherous 40 percent among all registered voters in the wake of the hug – an all-time low since his inauguration.
That animus is being driven mostly, pollsters say, by voters’ near-blanket rejection of Biden’s embrace of Israel and Netanyahu’s goal of destroying Hamas – no matter the appalling nature, extent and tally of human casualties that Americans and the world have witnessed.
“I do not support his support of Israel,” Meg Furey, 40, a Democrat from Austin, Texas told NBC News.
She is not alone.
A clear majority of Democrats believe that Israel has “gone too far” in its retributive designs, in effect, to erase occupied Gaza and, bit by inevitable bit, the West Bank.
Indeed, an astounding 70 percent of Democrats between 18 to 40 have made it plain to pollsters that they “disapprove” – to put it charitably – of Biden’s “handling” of the Israel-Gaza “war.”
“This poll is a stunner, and it’s stunning because of the impact the Israel-Hamas war is having on Biden,” one pollster said.
The poll is, as well, a stunning rebuttal of the Biden administration’s belief that its diplomatic and military girding of Israel in light of Hamas’s murderous October 7 assault would prove popular and be welcomed as a necessary expression of Israel’s “right to defend itself” without limits or any measure of restraint dictated by humanitarian conventions and international law.
Other numbers are even more sobering.
Arab-American support for Biden is fast evaporating. In a poll taken in late October, a paltry 17 percent of Arab Americans backed the president, an astonishing 42 percent drop from three years earlier.
As the halting pictures of the limp bodies of dead and bloodied, dirt-caked Palestinian children pulled from the pancake-like rubble continue to flood social media and television screens, that jarring figure is sure to fall further.
The potential existential political consequences of this pervasive anger and alienation may be starting to register with Biden and his in-denial campaign crew.
Despite battling a slew of federal and state indictments, Donald Trump remains a stubborn, even emboldened, threat. A spate of surveys shows the former president edging ahead nationally and carving out sizeable leads in a string of swing states where Biden prevailed in 2020.
The mood and momentum is with Trump.
To staunch the haemorrhaging and confront the yawning and bitter discontent, Biden has tried to reposition himself lately as a sort of honest broker who understands, and is sensitive to, the toll the “war” has exacted on Israelis and Palestinians alike.
Reportedly, Biden has penned two letters. One was addressed to “pro-Israel” Americans, in which Biden, predictably, reiterated that “the United States stands with Israel.” The other appealed to “pro-Palestinian” Americans by insisting that: “We mourn the many innocent Palestinians who have been killed.”
The hackneyed, almost pathetic gambit has failed – miserably.
I doubt that one young Democrat or Arab American has been moved to reconsider their pointed and poignant objections to what Israel has done to Gaza by Biden’s stale, hollow bit of performative nonsense.
It is too late. The damage has been done and it will not be undone by a cliche-laced letter written on the White House letterhead.
So, happily, I am convinced that Biden is finished.
The other delicious, unmistakable irony is that Biden has likely forfeited the presidency ostensibly to “save” Israel and prop up a prime minister who, in due and deliberate time, is certain to lose the position and powers he has long enjoyed and abused.
Soon, these strutting presidents and prime ministers will face the stiff, emasculating wrath of citizens whom they claim to lead.
I, for one, am looking forward to such a deserving and satisfying comeuppance.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.