Biden's response to Netanyahu is that US-Israel relations have changed for the better

It's been less than 24 hours since President Joe Biden bluntly told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that there will be consequences if the IDF does not act to protect Palestinian civilians and aid workers. Mr Netanyahu seems to have noticed.

According to White House officials, Biden used the conversation to vent months of growing frustration with the Israeli leader. Netanyahu's relentless refusal to protect Palestinian civilians and the Israeli military's callous disregard for the safety of those trying to provide food and medical care to those same civilians has shocked the White House. The final straw was the death of seven aid workers distributing food to starving civilians for the non-profit World Central Kitchen in three targeted airstrikes.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Thursday that Biden made it clear that “there are no changes to the protection of civilians on the ground, no changes in humanitarian aid levels, no movement on the ceasefire to allow hostages.” With more aid coming in and out, without … a peace, he should reconsider his own policy choices with respect to Gaza”.

“If there are no changes [Israeli] There have to be changes in policy and their attitudes, and then changes in ours,” Kirby added.

A Biden aide spoke The Independent Speaking on condition of anonymity, the president said he was inspired to make the changes to Netanyahu after speaking with Jose Andres, the Washington-based celebrity chef who founded World Central Kitchen. The aide added that Biden considers Andres a personal friend.

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For years, Netanyahu has acted with impunity when it comes to how his country treats the Palestinians, who he believes have almost unconditional support from American leaders. It's no secret that being seen as “anti-Israel” in the American political establishment can be the kiss of death. Republicans in particular have sought to make support for Israel a partisan issue.

Part of that toxic dynamic is that Biden has been hampered in his ability to push Netanyahu to change course.

But the President may have more slack.

Hours after the call between the US president and the Israeli prime minister, Israeli officials announced the opening of another land crossing in northern Gaza. That opening should allow aid to flow into a conflict zone that has been on the brink of famine for weeks now.

Additionally, earlier on Friday, the IDF released the results of a preliminary investigation into how its own highly trained, professional soldiers could launch three separate missiles at three vehicles marked with the World Central Kitchen symbol. It concluded that the “serious mistake” that claimed the lives of the aid workers was a “serious failure due to mistaken identity, errors in decision-making and an attack contrary to standard operating procedures”.

The Israeli military's chief spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, told reporters late Thursday that the attack on the aid convoy was “a tragedy” and “a serious incident for which we must take responsibility.” He reiterated that it should not have happened.

The Israeli military said military prosecutors would assess whether anyone involved in the strikes should face a military court. It will also assess whether the two officers dismissed as a result of their involvement in the strikes will be transferred or removed from service.

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National Security Council spokesman Kirby told reporters Friday that Israel's actions in the past 24 hours were a good start. But he stressed that the US is still in a wait-and-see mode when assessing Israel's response to Biden's demands.

He has repeatedly declined to comment on the substance of the Israeli investigation and said it is being reviewed by US officials.

“What's really important to us is that these changes are verifiable, they're sustainable, and the right steps are taken to make sure something like the strike that happened a few days ago at the World Central Kitchen doesn't happen again,” he said. We're going to make sure they do everything they can to prevent it.”

Kirby also told reporters that the U.S. was looking at whether Israel's pledges to increase humanitarian aid to Gaza would be “sustainable.”

Andres, founder of World Central Kitchen, said he was not satisfied with the Israeli-led report and called for an external investigation. Depending on how the Biden administration views the Israeli investigation, he could get one more, the equivalent of the country's independent inspector general.

Netanyahu's government could follow through on their pledges, which would mean, in theory, that Biden would have no reason to change any policy on Israel or Gaza. But just because there is no policy change does not mean there is no change.

The US president is now not barred from considering making security aid conditional on Israel's behavior on the battlefield.

Even if that doesn't happen, the fact that the White House can now talk openly may be the biggest change to come out of this war.

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