Biden says Netanyahu is making a ‘mistake’ with his handling of the Israel-Hamas war

April 10, 2024
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President Joe Biden upped his criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s role in the Israel-Hamas war but did not indicate any significant changes in U.S. policy toward its Middle East ally.

“I think what he’s doing is a mistake,” Biden said in an interview with Univision that aired Tuesday night in response to a question about whether Netanyahu is more concerned about political survival than Israelis’ national interest.

“I don’t agree with his approach,” Biden added in the interview, which was taped last Wednesday.

The remarks illustrate how Biden is increasingly willing to publicly criticize Netanyahu amid mounting criticism from progressives about Israel’s handling of the war in Gaza.

Biden last month praised Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s speech that criticized Netanyahu and called for new elections in Israel. Schumer, D-N.Y., argued that Netanyahu allowed “his political survival to take precedence over the best interests of Israel.”

At the same time, Biden has also come under criticism for not backing up his comments with conditions on selling U.S. arms to Israel. NBC News previously reported the U.S. decision last month to send more weapons to Israel.

Last week, more than three dozen Democrats in Congress — including former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California — signed a letter urging Biden to withhold arms transfers if “Israel fails to sufficiently mitigate harm to innocent civilians in Gaza, including aid workers.”

In the Univision interview, Biden said he is calling for Israelis “to just call for a cease-fire, allow for the next six, eight weeks total access to all food and medicine going into the country.”

“I’ve spoken with everyone from the Saudis to the Jordanians to the Egyptians. They’re prepared to move in,” Biden said. “They’re prepared to move this food in. And I think there’s no excuse to not provide for the medical and the food needs of those people. It should be done now.”

Biden had been critical of Netanyahu before the Israeli airstrike on April 1 that killed seven World Central Kitchen humanitarian workers, but he began taking a harder line after the strike.

“Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians” he said last week.

In the early days after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, Biden repeatedly emphasized that his support for Israel was “ironclad.” He has since had to contend with anti-war and pro-Palestinian protesters’ interrupting his speeches, as well as a campaign calling for voters to cast protest ballots for “uncommitted” rather than for him in the Democratic primaries.

On Tuesday, families of U.S. hostages met with Vice President Kamala Harris, who provided an update on the White House’s efforts to bring hostages home.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Jonathan Dekel-Chen, the father of American hostage Sagui Dekel-Chen, said there is “a deal on the table right now that all of the parties agree to and are willing to work with.”

They are waiting “for Hamas to get to ‘yes,'” he said.

Netanyahu has signaled that Israel has set a date for an offensive on Rafah, which the U.S. opposes. The White House has maintained that “a major ground operation in Rafah would be a mistake,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in March.

Biden expressed “deep concerns” about an Israeli offensive in Rafah in a conversation with Netanyahu last month, according to the White House.



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