Understanding the U.S. Role in the Israel-Hamas War

Scenes from the Israel-Hamas war have reverberated across the world. In the United States, debate about the conflict has intensified, and it has resurfaced long-standing questions about policy toward Israel and the Palestinian territories. What is the U.S. goal for the region? And how is the United States responding to the war?

Play Button Pause Button
0:00 0:00
  • Gabrielle Sierra
    Director, Podcasting

Asher Ross - Supervising Producer

Markus Zakaria - Audio Producer and Sound Designer

Molly McAnany - Associate Podcast Producer

Episode Guests
  • Steven A. Cook
    Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies and Director of the International Affairs Fellowship for Tenured International Relations Scholars

Show Notes

Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas are again at war. The most recent iteration of the conflict, which erupted after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, 2023, has stoked public debate throughout the world. In the United States, heated debates about the issue have played out at universities, in boardrooms, and on social media. Thus far, the U.S. government has strongly supported Israel’s right to defend itself, sending warships and high-ranking officials to the region, but concerns are mounting about the civilian death toll and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. U.S. support for Israel is not new, but it has grown increasingly controversial, particularly among young people. Still, experts are skeptical that shifting U.S. public opinion of Israel and the Palestinian territories will influence the war’s trajectory.


This episode was taped before Israel and Hamas agreed to a four-day cease-fire to facilitate the release of some Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners.


From CFR


Read the full suite of CFR.org and Foreign Affairs resources on Israel and the current conflict.



From Our Guest


The End of Ambition: America’s Past, Present, and Future in the Middle East [forthcoming June 2024]


This War Won’t Solve the Israel-Palestine Conflict,” Foreign Policy


Will Egypt Play a Role in Easing Gaza War?,” CFR.org



Mentioned on the Pod


Elaine Kamarck and Jordan Muchnick, “The Generation Gap in Opinions Toward Israel,” Brookings Institution


Lydia Saad, “Democrats' Sympathies in Middle East Shift to Palestinians,” Gallup



Read More


Henri J. Barkey, “The Hamas War Is Far More Dangerous to Israel Than the Yom Kippur War,” National Interest


Reuel Marc Gerecht and Ray Takeyh,Prepare for an Iranian Escalation,” Wall Street Journal



Watch and Listen


The Future of the Israel-Hamas War, With Linda Robinson,” The President’s Inbox

What Do Palestinians Think of Their Own Leaders?,” Foreign Affairs Interview

Robots and Artificial Intelligence

Billions of people will take to the polls next year, marking the world’s largest-ever electoral field. But this historic scale is not the only thing that will make 2024 unique. As new threats like deep fakes become cheaper and more widespread, these upcoming elections could serve as a test run for democracy in the artificial intelligence (AI) era. What risks does AI pose to elections next year? And will a surge in AI-powered disinformation change the nature of democratic elections?


International trade has shaped the world for much of the past century. Countries benefited from the global flow of goods, and the world became richer and safer. At the same time, many Americans lost their jobs to cheaper overseas competitors. Now, a series of compounding challenges, including great power competition and climate change, have led U.S. officials to rethink trade policy. What's next for international trade? And can the United States retain the benefits of trade while protecting critical supply chains and fighting climate change?

Drug Policy

Over the past few years, a new threat has emerged as a leading cause of death in the United States: fentanyl. Yet even as the drug wreaks havoc on Americans lives, preventing its flow into the United States is complicated, partially because of the supply’s overseas origins, which is often China. What is China’s role in the U.S. fentanyl crisis?

Top Stories on CFR


Palestinian Territories

The leading UN aid agency for Palestinian refugees is engulfed in allegations that twelve of its employees were involved in the Hamas attacks on southern Israel. The agency faces severe funding cutbacks, with huge consequences for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. 

United States

New U.S. Census Bureau data shows the United States importing more goods from Mexico than from China. Will the shift change the global trading landscape?