Biden says he doesn’t think Netanyahu is playing politics with war in Gaza

President Biden said Tuesday that he does not think Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “playing politics” with his handling of the war in Gaza.

“I don’t think so. He’s trying to work out a serious problem he has,” Biden said when asked, after a speech regarding executive action on the U.S. southern border, whether Netanyahu was “playing politics with the war.”

Biden’s comments came hours after a Time magazine interview was published in which he said it was reasonable for people to conclude Netanyahu was drawing out the conflict for his own political benefit.

“I’m not going to comment on that,” Biden told Time magazine in an interview conducted May 28 and published Tuesday. “There is every reason for people to draw that conclusion.”

Biden noted that before Israel’s war with Hamas began in October, the prime minister was facing criticism for pushing judicial reforms that would reduce checks and balances.

“And so, it’s an internal domestic debate that seems to have no consequence,” the president told Time. “And whether he would change his position or not, it’s hard to say, but it has not been helpful.”

Israel has been the target of international scrutiny for its handling of the war against Hamas, which began last October after the group killed about 1,200 Israelis. Subsequent Israeli military strikes in Gaza have killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, per local health officials, and those in the region have been without adequate access to food, water and medicine.

Netanyahu has also faced mounting criticism from the U.S. and other countries over his handling of the war, as civilian deaths mount and the humanitarian crisis worsens in Gaza. Biden has said U.S. support for Israel is “ironclad” but he has voiced frustration with Netanyahu over his war tactics, particularly over the deaths of civilians and plans to invade Rafah in southern Gaza.

The president earlier this week laid out a three-phase peace plan that would wind down fighting between Israel and Hamas and allow for the rebuilding of Gaza.

Biden argued Hamas has been degraded to the point that it cannot carry out an attack similar to the one last October. But Netanyahu has said the war should continue until Hamas is completely eradicated.

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