President Joe Biden told a crowd of Democratic donors over the weekend about a decades-old photo he took with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a party that seemed intended to illustrate his long support for Israel and his record of speaking openly with the conservative Israeli leader.
Biden said he wrote, “Bibi, I love you. I don’t agree with a damn thing you’re saying” on a photo of himself as a young senator and Netanyahu as an embassy hand. He told donors at Friday night’s dinner. fundraiser that Netanyahu still keeps the photo on his desk and brought it during Biden’s surprise visit to Tel Aviv last week.
With growing expectations that Israel will soon launch a ground offensive aimed at uprooting the Hamas militants who control the Gaza Strip, Biden once again finds himself faced with the difficult balancing act of demonstrating full support for America’s closest ally in the Middle East while trying to pressure the Israelis to do enough restrained, lest the war spread into a wider conflagration.
Biden has literally and figuratively wrapped Netanyahu in a warm hug since the October 7 Hamas attacks. He has repeatedly vowed to have Israel’s back as he aims to get rid of the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip and has carried out brutal attacks that have killed 1,400 Israelis and captured more than 200 others.
But it is also increasingly paying more public attention to the plight of the Palestinians and the potential consequences of a harsh Israeli response.
White House officials say Biden asked Netanyahu “tough” questions about his strategy and the way forward during his visit to Tel Aviv last week. Biden himself told reporters on his way back from Israel that he had “discussed at length” with Israeli officials “about what the alternatives are” to a possible expanded ground operation. US defense officials have also consulted with Israel on the matter.
“We’re going to make sure that other hostile actors in the region know that Israel is stronger than ever, and we’re going to prevent this conflict from expanding,” Biden said Thursday in a nationally televised speech about helping Israel and Ukraine in their wars. “At the same time… Netanyahu and I discussed again yesterday the critical need for Israel to operate under the laws of war. That means protecting civilians in combat as best they can.”
Both Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken and UN World Food Program Executive Director Cindy McCain warned grimly on Sunday that the situation on the ground was only getting more complicated.
Blinken warned on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “there is a likelihood of escalation” against U.S. forces stationed in the region by Iranian proxies. Iran is the largest financial backer of Hamas, Hezbollah militants in Lebanon, and Shiite militias in Iraq.
McCain told ABC’s “This Week” that the humanitarian situation her organization faces in Gaza is “catastrophic.”
Biden and Pope Francis also spoke by phone for about 20 minutes on Sunday and spoke about the need to “determine the paths of peace” in world conflicts, the Vatican press office said in a brief statement.
Pressure on Biden for a balanced approach comes from Arab leaders in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and beyond, who have seen large protests in their capitals over the Gaza crisis. It also came from European officials who expressed horror at the most brutal attack on Israeli soil in decades but also stressed that Israelis must abide by international and humanitarian law. Biden also faces scrutiny from people in the younger, more liberal wing of his Democratic Party, who are more divided on the Israeli-Palestinian issue than the party’s centrist and older leaders.
Less than a week after the war, dozens of lawmakers wrote to Biden and Blinken urging them to ensure the protection of Israeli and Palestinian civilians and calling for Israeli military operations to comply with the rules of international humanitarian law, the safe return of hostages, and diplomatic efforts. to ensure long-term peace. That was followed by more than a dozen lawmakers introducing a resolution calling on the Biden administration to call for an immediate de-escalation and ceasefire.
Three members of the Democratic caucus — Reps. Delia Ramirez of Illinois, Summer Lee of Pennsylvania, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — wrote to Blinken last week about the “lack of meaningful information” about the status of American civilians, particularly those in Gaza. Western Bank. The administration said there may be about 500 to 600 U.S. citizens in Gaza.
Image Source: Jerusalem Post