Biden’s Patience with Netanyahu Has Reached Its Limit

The U.S. president is criticizing the Gaza war more harshly than ever before and threatening Israel’s prime minister with potential repercussions for the first time. This course correction is long overdue.

For six months, he hugged, begged and admonished him. But now Joe Biden’s patience with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have run out. Biden has known “Bibi” for more than 40 years. However, after a half-hour phone call, Biden spokesman John Kirby explained, “there has been growing frustration.” He added that If Israel does not make any real changes to its conduct in the Gaza Strip, “in the coming hours and days … there will have to be changes from our side.”

This is the sharpest criticism from Washington since the start of the Israeli ground offensive following the Hamas terror attack. Notably absent from the White House’s written statement was the usual reference to Israel’s right to self-defense. Washington called the deadly airstrikes on aid workers and the entire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip “unacceptable,” and demanded an “immediate ceasefire.” For the first time, a direct link has been established between U.S. policy on Gaza and Israeli action.

A Clear Message

Kirby declined to name any specific consequences should the Netanyahu administration continue to deploy its military force in the Gaza Strip without sufficient consideration for the Palestinian civilian population, and should it block food deliveries or even bomb Rafah, which is overrun with refugees. But his message was clear: Biden is no longer willing to be shown up by Netanyahu, who seems to have no interest in containing the war, or in a two-state solution. Israel has now responded and announced an increase in humanitarian aid for Gaza, which the White House welcomed.

In any case, this course correction is long overdue. Washington is Israel’s most important arms supplier. It provides the country with $3.8 billion in annual military aid. A clear majority of U.S. citizens disagree with the way Israel is waging its war, which, according to Gaza’s health ministry, has cost the lives of more than 30,000 Palestinians. The narrow Gaza Strip is completely destroyed, and a massive famine is looming. The fact that the Israeli military killed seven nongovernmental aid workers trying to mitigate this catastrophe appears to have shaken Biden personally.

A Warning from Obama’s Former Aides

But for reasons of domestic policy, too, it is high time for the U.S. president to considerably increase pressure on Netanyahu. Arab and young are outraged by Biden’s unreservedly pro-Israel policies up now. This could cost Biden the election in November. In the swing state of Wisconsin, which Biden won by just 20,000 votes in 2020, 50,000 men and women denied him their vote by choosing “uncommitted” in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. Prominent Democratic senators have long called for strict conditions on further military aid to Israel. And people close to former President Barack Obama have warned that Biden’s warnings to Israel, which have not had any consequences, have made him look weak.

Israel policy will, of course, remain a balancing act for every U.S. president. Biden cannot simply deny military assistance to his most important ally in the Middle East, an ally that is surrounded by enemies. But he shouldn’t let Donald Trump beat him at his own game either. “It cannot continue like this,” said the populist candidate (who once conspicuously moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem) a few days ago with a sure sense of the public mood. He also called on Israel to end its Gaza offensive quickly. “We need peace.”*

*Editor’s Note: This quote, though accurately translated, could not be independently verified.

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About Kirsty Low 73 Articles
I am a German to English translator from Scotland with a passion for all things related to language and translation. I have experience translating texts from diverse fields and enjoy taking on new challenges.

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