Advertisement Close

The First Presidential Debate and the War in Gaza

posted on: Jul 3, 2024

Photo (left): Wikipedia Commons. Photo (right): Wikipedia Commons.

By Liam Nagle / Arab America Contributing Writer

Foreign policy isn’t usually a major talking point when it comes to United States presidential elections. However, many are wondering whether or not still will be the case for this election for a variety of reasons – not least of which stems from Biden’s policy on Israel and the ongoing War in Gaza. Although the debate did feature conversations on foreign policy, much of it was focused more around the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War rather than events in the Middle East. Regardless, both Biden and Trump spoke on the issue and seemed to get their main points across. This article will attempt to define the arguments made during the presidential debate with regards to policy in the Middle East.

Biden’s Position on Gaza

Biden’s position on the War in Gaza has been made relatively clear due to his actions as president. However, we will still examine the positions he took during the debate.

Firstly, Biden appeared to outline his plan to bring an end to the war. This plan came in three steps, and included the following:

  1. The release of Hamas-held hostages in exchange for a ceasefire.
  2. To achieve a “ceasefire with additional conditions”.
  3. To bring an end to the war.

Although this proposal has been described before, those were the statements used by Biden during the debate. In addition, Biden stated that the United Nations Security Council, the G7, and Israel under Netanyahu have all endorsed this plan.

In addition to a ceasefire, Biden also stated his support for Israel. In particular, he stated that “We are the biggest [supporter] of Israel of anyone in the world”. Biden stated that he remained committed to sending military arms to Israel by “supplying Israel with all the weapons they need and when they need them”. Biden notably made mention that he denied the sending and usage of 2000-pound bombs due to his concern of civilian casualties, emphasizing the need to be careful in using “certain weapons” in population centers. He has also reiterated his hostility towards Hamas, stating that Hamas had been “greatly weakened” due to the conflict, and that it “should be eliminated”. Biden also stated that the “only one who wishes to continue the war is Hamas”, a comment that Trump fired back on.

Overall, Biden offered a vague plan for a potential ceasefire deal – although admittedly, further details of the agreement are available online. Nevertheless, he also reiterated his support for Israel against Hamas, and that the United States was committed to continuing arms shipments.

Trump’s Position on Gaza

Trump’s response to this final comment encapsulates his position on the Gaza issue well. When Biden claimed that Hamas was the only one who wished to continue the war, Trump stated that it was actually Israel who wished to pursue the war – and that the United States should let Israel “finish the job”.

Trump also stated that he believed Biden’s perceived weakness on the international stage was the primary reason for the war’s beginning, stating that the war “never should have happened”. Trump claimed that, under Biden, other countries were more willing to conduct business with Iran. In turn, this gave Iran more funding, which was used to fund Hamas’ activities to eventually pursue its attack on Israel on October 7th.

Perhaps one of his most famous comments during the presidential debate, however, came when Trump stated Biden had “become like a Palestinian”. Trump seemed to insinuate that Biden was pro-Palestinian, but even said that Biden wasn’t liked by Palestinian supporters because he was “very weak” and therefore a “bad Palestinian”. Additionally, towards the end of the debate segment speaking on the War in Gaza, Trump was asked whether or not he could accept Palestinian statehood in exchange for a ceasefire. However, Trump simply stated he would “look into it” before moving on to respond to one of Biden’s remarks on a previous question regarding Russia and Ukraine.

All in all, Trump didn’t engage with the questions on the War in Gaza, instead using it as a means to criticize Biden rather than to promote his own policy. Nevertheless, his comment that Israel should “finish the job” in Gaza might be revealing of his plans.


According to the presidential debate, the positions between the two presidential candidates on Palestine are similar. The debate shows that both support Israel, but Biden appears more supportive of a ceasefire agreement whereas Trump was supportive of letting Israel “finish the job”. While the war continued, Biden stated he would continue arming Israel with weapons as long as they were careful using certain weapons due to civilian casualties. Trump made some comments saying that the U.S. was sending lots of money abroad to Ukraine and Israel, but didn’t pledge to stop shipments to either party. Unrelated to Palestine, neither candidate spent much time talking about other events on the Arab world. Trump made a statement that Biden’s loose stance on border control has resulted in “terrorists” getting into the country from the Middle East, but otherwise there was no real discussions on it. Ultimately, Biden and Trump’s positions may seem similar, but the debate does show some potentially key differences in their approaches to the conflict.

Check out our Blog here!