The Canadian press

Israel, violence in Gaza overshadows Biden’s domestic plans

DEARBORN, me. (AP) – President Joe Biden’s efforts to spotlight his major infrastructure plans are suddenly overshadowed by escalating violence between Israel and the Palestinians. The conflict sparked protests during his visit to a Ford electric vehicle center in Michigan on Tuesday The White House faced growing pressure to intervene. Biden, who planned to use the two weeks leading up to Memorial Day to build Republican support for his $ 2.3 trillion package, visited a Ford plant in Dearborn on Tuesday to argue his plans are helping could steer the country towards a bright future electric car. But every president’s script is rewritten in the real world, and Biden is facing increasing pressure to intervene more to stop the violence in the Middle East – as, by a systematic quirk, he visited a city that is almost half-Arab. is american. The Ford Rouge plant is located in a part of Dearborn that is more than 90% Arab-American Muslim. Many of the local people are strong supporters of the Palestinians. Major protests took place across town while Biden was there. In a speech at the factory, Biden made only a temporary mention of the conflict and warmly addressed Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib as she sat in the audience and said he would pray that her grandmother and other family members in the West Bank were okay. “I promise you I will do everything I can to see that it is you,” said Biden, the Tlaib, and his Michigan Democratic representative Debbie Dingell, earlier at the Detroit airport, where the three of them met for a few minutes talked for a long time on the asphalt. The Biden government has engaged in so-called silent diplomacy and has refused to push for an immediate ceasefire by its close ally Israel and Hamas. But privately, Biden government officials have encouraged the Israelis to stop bombing Gaza. Officials were told by the Israelis that the operations could be completed in a few days. The White House has made the calculation that the Israelis will not respond to international resolutions or US public demands and that the biggest lever is behind the scenes pressure, officials said. At the same time, the White House recognizes that the longer the conflict lasts, the greater the likelihood of a very high casualty event or other provocative action by either side that could make reaching a ceasefire difficult. All along, Hamas rockets and Israeli air strikes continued for a ninth day. At least 213 Palestinians and 12 people in Israel have died. Up to this point in Biden’s young tenure, foreign policy has faded into the background. The president has stressed the need to focus on domestic affairs first – taming the COVID-19 pandemic and reshaping the economy – to prove that democracies can still compete with global autocracies, namely China. But the persistent conflict in Gaza has derailed that narrative. Aboard Air Force One for the Michigan flight, White House press secretary Jen Psaki was peppered with questions about the government’s response to the violence before being asked about electric cars. She defended Biden’s cautious approach to this point. “He’s been doing this long enough to know that the best way to end an international conflict is not to discuss it publicly,” she said. While touring the Dearborn facilities, Biden continued to focus on jobs, and the car enthusiast marveled at the new technology – he even took a truck for a quick test drive – while emphasizing the importance of his infrastructure plan: “The future of the auto industry is electric. There is no turning back, “said Biden. “The real question is whether we ‘I will lead or we will fall behind in the race to the future.” There have been protests out in Dearborn, 47% of which are Arab-Americans, most of them Muslims. This is the highest percentage among cities in the United States. Outside the local police department, about three miles from Biden, hundreds of people of Arab descent sang, “Free, free Palestine!” and waved Palestine flags. Amer Zahr, chairman of a group called New Generation for Palestine, said Biden was “not welcome in Dearborn today.” “He finances the murder of our families,” said Zahr. “It’s ethnic cleansing. It’s that simple. It’s not very complicated.” Biden wanted his foreign policy to focus on American workers, but the Israel conflict has highlighted the challenges of combining its national and international agendas. The violence has disrupted not only his messages, but his policies as well. The Biden White House took pride in controlling news and carefully drafting its approach to legislation. The first two months of his tenure focused on passing the $ 1.9 trillion COVID relief bill and dramatically increasing the country’s immunization program, Biden’s two-part infrastructure and family plan, which runs to around $ 4 trillion. The president has set a soft Memorial Day deadline to see if there is Republican support. Not a single GOP lawmaker has endorsed the COVID bill, despite strong public support, with some, if fleeting, signs of possible Republican support for the infrastructure plan. A group of Republican Senators met with Biden last week and were due to meet again with White House officials and cabinet members on Tuesday. There is some hope of a bipartisan deal on hard infrastructure – like highways and broadband – before the Democrats push their family plan forward in a vote across the party line. At least, aides have said, they want to show how they are reaching into the aisle to reassure moderate Democrats who are pushing through massive spending bills with a legislative strategy that completely bypasses Republicans. Biden’s plan would help transform the automotive sector by making non-gasoline-burning vehicles mainstream. He also sees a shift towards electric vehicles as an important part of his plan to fight climate change, and his visit came the day before Ford was due to release details of an all-electric version of its F-150 pickup called the Lightning. The president also has a major hurdle to overcome before his electric vehicle can make his zero-emission future a reality: the lack of stations where people can plug in their engines and juice them. To that end, Biden has proposed $ 174 billion for electric vehicles. That money includes discounts and incentives for consumer purchases, as well as money to build 500,000 charging points by 2030. The White House says the US has only a fraction, about a third of the market share of electric vehicles in China and far fewer public charging points – and needs to catch up before they can take the lead. At Ford, the F-Series pickups – including the high-performance versions – have been the best-selling vehicles in the United States for 39 years in a row. Last year, the company sold more than 787,000 trucks despite having to close factories for eight weeks at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The F-150 Lightning electric vehicle, slated to hit showrooms mid-next year, will come at a time when few Americans have been willing to deviate from gasoline-powered vehicles. As of April this year, automakers in the US had sold only 107,624 all-electric vehicles. ___ Additional reports from Associated Press writers, Aamer Madhani in Washington, Tom Krisher in Detroit, and video journalist Mike Householder in Dearborn. Boak reported from Washington. Lemire from New York. Jonathan Lemire, Darlene Superville and Josh Boak, The Associated Press