WATCH LIVE: White House holds news briefing as Biden calls for ‘pause’ in Gaza fighting


White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Council spokesman John Kirby will hold a news briefing on Thursday as President Joe Biden calls for a “humanitarian pause” amid criticisms of Israel’s bombardment in Gaza.

The event is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. ET. Watch in the player above.

Democrats in Michigan have warned the White House that President Joe Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict could cost him enough support within the Arab American community to sway the outcome of the 2024 election in a state he almost certainly can’t afford to lose in his bid for reelection.

The situation has prompted the White House to discuss ways to alleviate tensions with some of the state’s prominent Democrats, including several who have been vocal critics of the president about the war.

“The message has been relayed. We’ve had calls with the White House. We’ve had calls with DNC officials,” said Abraham Aiyash, the third-ranking Democrat in the state House of Representatives, referring to the Democratic National Committee. “We’ve been clear in saying the humanity should matter, but if that is not a calculation that you’re going to make in this moment, recognize that there will be electoral reverberations to this.”

Michigan was a critical component of the so-called blue wall of states that includes Wisconsin and Pennsylvania that Biden returned to the Democratic column, helping him win the White House in 2020. Since then, Democrats have felt more confident about their standing in Michigan, particularly after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer notched a commanding 10-point reelection victory last year.

But a cross current of developments in recent months has tested the party. Beyond the war, Michigan was shaken by a showdown between the autoworkers’ union and the Detroit Three automakers. Former President Donald Trump visited the state during the strike and Biden, who has longtime ties to unions, became the first sitting president to join a picket line.

Now that the strike is resolved, the war may have a more lasting political impact for the president. In 2020, Muslim voters nationally supported Biden over Trump 64% to 35%, according to AP VoteCast.

Aiyash, the Democratic floor leader in the state House, said Arab American leaders who have spoken to the White House “are worried” about the implications for 2024 and have relayed those concerns to Biden. Other prominent Michigan Democrats have shared similar concerns.

“Certainly none of us want to see part two of a Trump disaster presidency. But we also are not going to just passively give Joe Biden a second term if our concerns are not even dignified through a response,” Aiyash said.

Michigan holds the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the nation and over 310,000 residents are of Middle Eastern or North African ancestry. Many in the community are pledging to coalesce against Biden’s reelection campaign unless he calls for a ceasefire in the war.

He has been reluctant to do that, emphasizing Israel’s right to defend itself after the Oct. 7 attack and casting doubt on estimates provided by the Gaza-based Ministry of Health on the number of Palestinians who have died in the region in the ensuing conflict.
That stance changed slightly Wednesday when Biden responded to a protester calling for a ceasefire at a fundraiser in Minnesota by saying there should be a humanitarian “pause” in the Israel-Hamas war.

“A pause means give time to get the prisoners out,” he said.

Nearly 30 Arab American leaders and activists convened in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn on Oct. 16 to discuss the Biden administration’s response to the war. One attendee, Hussein Dabajeh, has begun forming a political action committee that will boycott Democratic candidates who fail to speak out against Israel’s retaliatory strikes.

Dabajeh and other community leaders have said that while many Arab Americans may not support a Republican candidate such as Trump, they would leave the top of the ticket blank. Trump won Michigan by just over 10,000 votes in 2016, and tens of thousands of Michigan voters opted to not vote in the presidential race that year.

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