Biden Nearing a ‘Breach’ with Netanyahu Over Gaza War: Report

President Joe Biden is “warming” to the idea of being more publicly critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as his country’s assault on Gaza continues unabated, The Washington Post reported.

The paper reported that Biden is becoming increasingly frustrated with Netanyahu, citing interviews with multiple sources familiar with internal White House discussions. Per the Post, the president and his aides are “no longer viewing Netanyahu as a productive partner who can be influenced even in private.”

Biden and the prime minister have known each other for more than four decades, and the president has long been a supporter of Israel, but Biden recently signaled a potential shift in his view of Israel’s military actions when he said last week that the “conduct of [Israel’s] response” in Gaza was “over the top.”

“A lot of innocent people are starving,” Biden said. “A lot of innocent people are in trouble and they’re dying. And it’s got to stop.”

One official told the Post that the issue of humanitarian aid to Gaza is “constantly on [Biden’s] mind.” A United Nations report found that one in four Gazans are starving due to the war. U.N. aid agency UNRWA recently said Israel is preventing a month’s worth of food aid for 1.1 million Palestinians from entering the Gaza Strip.

The White House later clarified Biden’s “over the top” remarks, saying that “nothing has changed” in the administration’s messaging about the war.

Biden’s “position hasn’t changed. I don’t think his messaging has changed. We don’t think his messaging has [changed]. He doesn’t believe his messaging has changed,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre clarified the next day during a briefing.

But behind the scenes, the White House is becoming increasingly frustrated with Netanyahu, sources told the paper, especially in light of Israel’s plans for a ground invasion of Rafah, a city on Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, where upwards of 1.5 million Gazans have fled and are now living in makeshift tents. Before the war, 280,000 people lived in Rafah.

“They’re already living in tents and not getting enough food and water and you’re saying go somewhere else,” an outside adviser to the White House told the Washington Post. “Where? How are they supposed to get there?”

In an interview Sunday on ABC’s This Week, Netanyahu defended his direction for the evacuation of Rafah. “Those who say that under no circumstances should we enter Rafah are basically saying ‘lose the war,’” he said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Israel last week participating in negotiations for a ceasefire deal, but Netanyahu rejected an offer from Hamas to release the hostages and engage in a ceasefire, calling the deal “delusional.”

“Continued military pressure is a necessary condition for the release of the hostages,” Netanyahu said.

“There are clearly nonstarters in what (Hamas has) put forward,” Blinken said of the offer. “But we also see space in what came back to pursue negotiations, to see if we can get to an agreement. That’s what we intend to do.”

Israel’s military operations in Gaza since Oct. 7 have killed more than 28,000 Palestinians and injured upwards of 67,000, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Over the weekend, Israel killed at least 44 Palestinians in Rafah alone, including more than a dozen children.

Even if Biden sharpens his rhetoric around the war, it will make little substantive difference as long as the U.S. is funding Israel’s military efforts, Ben Rhodes, former president Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, told the paper. Last week, the Senate advanced a $95 billion aid package that included $35 billion in aid for Israel. It will now head to the House.

“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,” Rhodes said, referring to Netanyahu as “Bibi,” a common nickname for the prime minister.

More from Rolling Stone

Best of Rolling Stone