President Biden’s candid demand that Israel ease its military attack on Gaza is creating an unusual rift between the two countries and dismaying some of Israel’s supporters in the United States
While making merry the Democrats who have increasingly pushed for a tougher U.S. stance toward Israel.
Biden had for some time hesitated to publicly confront Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and his demand for “a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire” shook up the worlds of politics and diplomacy. It was the clearest evidence yet of a rapidly changing political dynamic, at least among Democrats, that is far less accepting of actions Israel says it is taking in self-defense.
The White House has told Netanyahu that the ground is shifting in the United States, even among some lawmakers who have long been supportive of Israel, two people familiar with aspects of the message said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. That shift was the backdrop for Wednesday’s call, the fourth between the two leaders since hostilities began.
Netanyahu, however, vowed to continue with the 10-day military offensive “until its aim is met,” meaning until more Hamas targets are destroyed. That public defiance underlined his disconnect with Biden, which is all the more notable because Netanyahu, whose own domestic political position is precarious, closely embraced former President Donald Trump.
After a visit to military headquarters, Netanyahu said that he “greatly appreciates the support of the American president” but that Israel would push ahead “to return the calm and security to you, citizens of Israel.”
Biden has no direct authority to impose a cease-fire on Israel, but the stern White House message was unmistakable: If Netanyahu carries the conflict much further, he risks losing significant backing in Washington.
The United States and Israel have differed before, often on the issue of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. But a posture of unshakable solidarity has been far more common in the history of the two countries, and the United States holds powerful leverage as the Jewish state’s most important ally and chief diplomatic defender on the world stage.
The three-sentence account of the Biden-Netanyahu call released by the White House on Wednesday omitted the usual language about Israel’s right to defend itself. After noting a “detailed discussion” between the leaders, the statement said, “The President conveyed to the Prime Minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire.”
That sharp tone caught the attention of figures like Rep. Mark Pocan , who has helped spearhead the push for a stricter policy toward Israel. He said he was “Waiting and hoping,” when asked for his reaction.
Biden’s repeated calls to Netanyahu are a reflection of how much the Middle East crisis has seized his attention in recent days, despite his earlier determination to avoid getting entangled in the region’s long-running hostilities.
On Wednesday, the conflict overshadowed his message at the commencement ceremony of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, where he emphasized the need to stand up to China and protect freedom of navigation on the seas.