Biden-Netanyahu Relations Sour As Congress Plans $14B in New Aid for Israel
- Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu are barely speaking at this point.
- Biden called Netanyahu’s war in Gaza “over the top” last week.
- Meanwhile, the US Congress is on the cusp of approving another $14 billion in aid to Israel.
Things are so bad between US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the two leaders barely speak these days.
On Thursday last week, Biden publicly called Israel’s response in Gaza “over the top.” That might seem tame considering what’s happening in Gaza, but for Biden, who was once full-throated in his support of Israel, it was significant.
For Netanyahu, it was apparently indecipherable. “I don’t know exactly what he meant by that,” Netanyahu said on ABC News “This Week” on Sunday.
The two leaders spoke for the first time on Sunday since Biden’s comment, according to the White House. During the call, Biden again pressured Netanyahu to consider the safety of Palestinian civilians. Israel is gearing up to invade Rafah, a city in Gaza where many civilians have fled, a move the US has publicly opposed.
But in the four months since Israel began its scorched-earth retaliation for the October 7 attacks, Netanyahu has repeatedly ignored Biden’s requests to dial it back. Almost 30,000 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have died in Israel’s attacks, while the attacks have largely leveled Gaza itself.
During a phone call in January, Biden asked Netanyahu to prepare for a post-conflict resolution, including a two-state solution. Netanyahu publicly rejected the idea on social media, saying Israel would “not compromise on full Israeli control” of Gaza after the war.
It’s surprising behavior for the leader of a country that receives billions in military aid from the United States every year and is on the cusp of receiving $14 billion more from Congress — assuming American lawmakers can get their act together. It’s embarrassing for Biden, and the president’s frustrations are beginning to show.
The Post said that Biden’s aides are encouraging him to be more public with his criticism of Netanyahu’s strategy in Gaza. Aides told the Post that this would help distance Biden from the unpopular Israeli leader during an election year.
But that’ll do little for hungry Palestinians in Gaza.
Ben Rhodes, a former deputy national security advisor, told the Post: “So long as you are supporting Netanyahu’s military operation in Gaza without condition, it makes absolutely no difference how much you turn the dial in your comments. Fundamentally, you have to make a decision not to give Bibi a blank check of support.”