Biden privately disparages Netanyahu, but he has not changed US policy towards Israel

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has been venting frustration in recent private conversations, some with campaign donors, over his inability to persuade Israel to change its military tactics in Gaza, and has described Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the main obstacle, he reported. To five people with direct knowledge of his comments.

Biden has said he is trying to persuade Israel to agree to a ceasefire, but Netanyahu is “giving him hell” and is impossible to deal with, said the people familiar with Biden’s comments, who all requested anonymity.

“He feels like that’s enough,” one person said of the views expressed by Biden. “You should stop.”

Biden in recent weeks has spoken privately about Netanyahu, a leader he has known for decades, with a candor that surprised some of those receiving his comments, people familiar with the matter said. These people said his descriptions of his dealings with Netanyahu are filled with contemptuous references to Netanyahu as “that guy.” In at least three recent instances, Biden called Netanyahu an “idiot,” according to three people with direct knowledge of his comments.

Asked about Biden’s own comments about Netanyahu, a National Security Council spokesperson said in a statement that the two leaders have a respectful relationship. “The president has been clear about his disagreement with Prime Minister Netanyahu, but this is a relationship that has been going on for decades and is respected in public and in private,” the spokesman said.

Since embracing Netanyahu in a hug during his visit to Israel after 1,200 Israelis were killed in a Hamas terrorist attack on October 7, Biden has grown. Steadily more frustrating With the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths in Gaza, which reports now stand at 28,000, and Netanyahu’s reluctance to seek a long-term peace agreement.

The rawness of Biden’s private, unfiltered musings about Netanyahu, as well as Netanyahu’s failure to change tactics in the Gaza Strip, suggest that the dynamic between the two leaders could be approaching an inflection point.

Israel is planning to launch a ground attack on Rafah, a city located in the southern Gaza Strip and home to more than a million Palestinians displaced from the northern Gaza Strip. Netanyahu pledged to go ahead with the operation even though US officials have repeatedly expressed public opposition to it, unless Israel provides safe passage for Palestinian civilians.

On Sunday, Biden told Netanyahu in a phone call that he believes “the military operation in Rafah should not continue without a credible and implementable plan” to protect and support Palestinians sheltering there, the White House said in a statement.

The bulk of their 45-minute conversation focused on the long-discussed but repeatedly postponed agreement between Israel and Hamas to release hostages held in Gaza in exchange for a halt to military operations and the release of Palestinian prisoners. According to the White House.

Biden took a harsher tone on Thursday, calling Israel’s military offensive in Gaza “overblown.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken was also outspoken last week after meeting with Netanyahu in Israel. Blinken said he told Netanyahu that the number of Palestinian civilians dying every day due to Israeli military operations “remains very high.”

However, people familiar with Biden’s private comments said he told them he thought it would be counterproductive to be too tough on Netanyahu publicly.

Biden’s frustrations with Netanyahu have also not led to a major policy shift, but his administration has begun to consider such options. Two weeks ago, officials told NBC News The administration was discussing delaying or slowing US arms sales to Israel as leverage to get Netanyahu to ease Israeli military operations in Gaza and do more to protect civilians.

In another potential political shift, NBC reported last week Administration officials are formulating options to formally recognize an independent Palestinian state.

However, officials said that even as Biden steps up his tone, he is not yet ready to make major policy changes. He and his assistants still believe in his approach Unambiguously support Israel he is right.

Some Democrats in Congress called for placing conditions on US aid to Israel. Other Democrats, including military veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, have cited this experience He questioned Israeli tacticsThey claim that heavy bombing and heavy civilian casualties are counterproductive tactics that threaten to provide more fuel for extremists.

One troubling thing Biden has expressed in recent private conversations, according to people familiar with his comments, is that he feels his administration keeps offering good deals to Israel, like the recent deal that included Saudi Arabia, only for Netanyahu to reject them.

An agreement to release the hostages and halt Israeli military operations would culminate weeks of high-level efforts by Biden and his senior aides to secure an agreement, which they hope will eventually lead to a long-term ceasefire.

However, in perhaps some of his final private moments, the president said Netanyahu wanted the war to continue so he could remain in power, three of the people familiar with his comments said.

At a fundraiser attended by Biden in the past few weeks, he spoke about Israel and his frustrations with Netanyahu to a small group of donors. In response to his thanks for standing with Israel and against anti-Semitism, Biden took the opportunity to offer some of his views, according to a supporter who was in attendance.

Biden said: “I am a Zionist,” reiterating his view of the necessity of destroying Hamas and protecting Israel, according to Al-Moayad.

But Biden also expressed frustration with Netanyahu, who is often referred to as “Bibi.”

“He said ‘Pepe is starting out great, but he’s been hurting me lately’ or ‘He’s been killing me lately’ — one of those things,” the person who was there for Biden’s comments recalled. “But he’s been causing damage… lately,” he says.

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