Netanyahu is using rare Biden criticism of Gaza to rally his right-wing support

JERUSALEM — The relationship between President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has oscillated between bitterness and bear hugs since Netanyahu regained power a year ago.

Biden initially denied his long-held grudge, making traditional phone calls and White House visits to express displeasure with Netanyahu’s push to overhaul Israel’s judiciary. But after the October 7 Hamas attacks, he fully embraced the traumatized country, its war aims and its leader.

Now, as Israel’s devastating war in Gaza enters its third month, bitterness is creeping back in.

Biden says indiscriminate bombing of Gaza costs Israel support

Biden echoed in his strongest terms the growing criticism of the staggering collateral damage from Israel’s military assault on Hamas: more than 18,000 Gazans killed and an unprecedented humanitarian collapse.

Also, the president has personally criticized Netanyahu for “indiscriminate bombing” that is eroding Israel’s international support, arguing that the prime minister is favoring the most extreme members of his right-wing government.

At a Washington fundraiser on Tuesday, he referred to Netanyahu by his nickname and said, “BB has to make a tough decision.” “I think he needs to change, and this government in Israel is making it very difficult for him to move.”

Netanyahu responded with a quickly produced video, apparently rejecting one of the president’s own key proposals: that the Palestinian Authority of the West Bank, which governs Gaza after the war, be revived. Netanyahu recently signaled his desire to keep Israeli troops in Gaza indefinitely.

“I want to make my position clear – I will not allow Israel to repeat the mistake of Oslo,” he said, adding that the 1993 Oslo accords created a historic blueprint for peace between Israelis and Palestinians and allowed for a limited Palestinian state. Self rule. The deal is hated by Israel’s right wing.

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“After the great sacrifices made by our citizens and fighters, I will not allow people who preach terrorism, support terrorism, finance terrorism to be stationed in Gaza,” he said.

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The clue was cheered by Netanyahu’s supporters, who have rejected calls by Biden or other leaders to back off from the military assault on Gaza until Hamas is destroyed as a fighting force. Some of Netanyahu’s staunchest allies, including Public Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, have endorsed fringe calls for Israel to permanently resettle Gaza.

Although Ben Quir and political partner and fellow immigration chief and finance minister Bezalel Smodrich have been excluded from the emergency war cabinet that makes security decisions, both have pressured Netanyahu to move to the right. Both tried this week to vote on moves to allow West Bank Palestinian farm and construction workers to enter Israel from October 7.

“It’s a different group,” Biden said Tuesday. “They don’t want Ben Gvir and company and the new guys to even remotely approach a two-state solution.”

Critics accused the prime minister of trying to shore up his base at the risk of straining relations with Israel’s most important ally at a crucial stage in the war. Netanyahu has slumped in the polls after a surprise Hamas rampage in Israel that killed more than 1,200 people.

More than two-thirds of Israelis say they expect Netanyahu to take responsibility for failing to stop the attacks and leave office when the war ends. Israeli media have been awash with reports of defections brewing within the prime minister’s Likud party.

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“Israel is at war, Netanyahu launches his re-election campaign” was the headline of an analysis by Netanyahu biographer Anschel Pfeffer in Haaretz on Tuesday.

Even some supporters rejected the Prime Minister.

“We are at war here,” Michael Oren, Netanyahu’s one-time envoy to the United States, said in an interview Wednesday. “This is not the time for politics.”

Amid growing calls for a general cease-fire around the world, Biden stands alone for his total commitment to Israel’s goal of eliminating Hamas. On Friday, the United States vetoed a ceasefire resolution at the United Nations Security Council. On Tuesday, the UN

“The only thing standing between us and an internationally imposed ceasefire is the president of the United States,” Oren said. “I cannot for the life of me know a national strategic interest in coming out against the PA [Palestinian Authority].”

Biden used most of his remarks to defend Israel’s right to fight against Hamas, and Oren said he didn’t think the clue would sway Biden’s commitment to Israel’s war aims.

“But it won’t help,” he said.

The relationship is growing more complicated as Israelis chafe against calls to roll back the Gaza campaign.

A billboard with Biden’s image that hung across the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Jerusalem for weeks was replaced last week with the words “Thank you Mr. President” and a poster by UniWork Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik that grilled three university presidents over anti-Semitism. Campus.

Criticism of Biden is growing in Israel, but thankfully still sour.

“We respect and honor the President of the United States,” Communications Minister Shlomo Garhi said in a post on X. “But we live here … there will be no Palestinian state here. We will never return to Oslo.

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Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen issued a statement on Wednesday saying any ceasefire would be a “gift” to Hamas. “Israel will continue its war against Hamas with or without international support.”

The cost of the war came in stark relief after one of the heaviest days of casualties for Israeli forces fighting in Gaza was announced on Wednesday, the day before 10 soldiers were said to have been killed, including a top officer in the elite Golani Brigade. More than 100 Israeli soldiers have been killed since the ground invasion of Gaza began on October 27.

For Netanyahu, there should be no domestic downside to rejecting Palestinian leadership, or the notion that an independent Palestine is even remotely possible. He has worked to sideline the possibility for years, pursuing policies that divide Palestinians between the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. His more radical allies are more vocal, but critics say their motives and his are often in sync.

In the public eye, it has been years since the two-state solution was seen as an artifact of protracted peace negotiations by Israelis or Palestinians. Now the idea faces even more skepticism in Israel, making it easier for Netanyahu to gain support.

According to Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy League, it has been working for him for years.

“Netanyahu began his career a generation ago, creating the fear of the Israeli public against the Oslo process and the PA,” Plessner said. “Thirty years later, the theme is not very different. Now, Israelis fear that if the Palestinians keep control of the territory, it will end with Israelis being slaughtered and slaughtered.

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