Biden warns Israel to change course or risk losing support

 December 13, 2023

In his most forceful criticism of Israel to date, Joe Biden urged the longstanding U.S. ally to change course in its war with Hamas or risk losing global support.

The stark comments reflect a growing rift between the Biden administration and Israel's right-wing government under Benjamin Netanyahu, who has resisted international pressure for a cease-fire.

Biden snubs Israel

Biden initially supported Israel without qualification after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, but his tone began to change as Israel's military effort to wipe out Hamas led to thousands of civilian deaths in Gaza.

In a talk with donors Tuesday, Biden - who often waxes poetic about "democracy" - complained that Israel has its "most conservative government" ever under Netanyahu and said the government "has to change."

He warned that Israel, which was showered with sympathy after October 7, is "starting to lose that support" as the death toll rises in Gaza.

Netanyahu's vision for the endgame rules out any civilian role for the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, but Biden has said that Israel should not re-occupy the coastal strip, which many leftists consider to be already under occupation.

Biden said Israel, under Netanyahu, "doesn't want a two-state solution."

Israel brushes Biden aside

Israel brushed off Biden's comments, with Netanyahu saying Israel would not "repeat the mistake of Oslo," referring to the 1993 Oslo Accords that were hailed as a potential breakthrough in the decades-long conflict.

Biden's words of caution reflect his own worries that being too closely linked with Israel's campaign in Gaza could hurt him politically.

Biden's stance has brought criticism from American progressives, who accuse Israel of perpetrating crimes against humanity.

Leftists have rallied behind demands for a cease-fire, an idea Biden rejects. Some of Biden's own staff have accused him of participating in "genocide."

While seeking to distance himself from Netanyahu, Biden is also wary of being associated with anti-Semites on the left, declaring, "I am a Zionist" at a White House Hanukkah lighting on Monday.

"As I said after the [Oct.7] attack, my commitment to the safety of the Jewish people, and the security of Israel, its right to exist as an independent Jewish state, is unshakeable," Biden said.

The U.S. was one of a handful of countries to reject a United Nations resolution this week calling for a cease-fire.

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