Embattled Dem Senators Call on Biden to Recognize Palestinian State

Sens. Sherrod Brown and Tammy Baldwin (Getty Images)
March 20, 2024

A group of Democratic senators, including two up for reelection in the battleground states of Wisconsin and Ohio, called on President Joe Biden to increase pressure on Israel for a ceasefire and to take steps to "recognize a nonmilitarized Palestinian state" in the West Bank and Gaza.

"Given the severity of the current crisis, this moment requires determined U.S. leadership that must move beyond facilitation," wrote 19 Democratic senators, led by Sen. Tom Carper (D., Del.), in a letter to Biden on Wednesday.

"As such, we request the Biden administration promptly establish a bold, public framework outlining the steps necessary for the U.S. to recognize a nonmilitarized Palestinian state."

The letter comes as the Biden administration has warned Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt a planned military operation targeting Hamas in Rafah, and as Democratic politicians have caved to calls from left-leaning activists to reject support for Israel.

The letter was signed by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D., Wisc.) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), two senators facing competitive reelections. Their involvement signals that the Israel-Gaza war will be a campaign issue in battleground Senate races.

Baldwin’s state of Wisconsin is the next target for anti-Israel activists seeking to sway Democratic primaries. Activists are calling on Wisconsin Democrats to protest Israel by voting "uninstructed" on the ballot, instead of pulling the lever for Biden, in the state’s April 2 primary.

Last month in Michigan, around 13 percent of the Democratic electorate voted "uncommitted" after a similar activist campaign—a worrying omen for Biden in a state where he won by just 154,000 votes in 2020.

Since then, Biden and other national Democrats have ramped up their criticism of Netanyahu. Biden told Netanyahu this week that Israel’s planned intervention in Rafah, Hamas’s last stronghold in Gaza, would be a "mistake." Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) also called on the Israeli leader to step down.

A new anti-Israel group called Listen to Wisconsin has launched a phone-banking campaign targeting voters and said it hopes to draw 20,000 "uninstructed" votes. Biden won the state by 20,000 votes in 2020.

"The Wisconsin Uninstructed campaign represents a multi-faith, multi-racial and multi-generational coalition of voters that aims to use the April 2nd Democratic Presidential Primary to fill in the bubble for ‘uninstructed delegation’ in opposition to the White House’s support of Israel’s war in Gaza," said the group in a press release.

The senators’ letter on Wednesday echoed this criticism, with the lawmakers writing that they were "particularly disappointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to engage on a path to a Palestinian state" which "provides even more reason for the Biden administration to lead and push the Israeli government."

Baldwin has repeatedly opposed the Israeli military’s efforts to eradicate Hamas in the wake of the terrorist group’s Oct. 7 attacks. Last week, she called for a "permanent ceasefire" by Israel, drawing condemnation from Wisconsin Republicans.

Brian Schimming, the chairman of the Wisconsin GOP, said Baldwin was "choosing to align herself with the demands of Hamas terrorists and violent pro-Palestine demonstrators."