Biden backs off suggestion Netanyahu prolonging Gaza war

US President Joe Biden has played down his own suggestion that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is dragging out the war in Gaza for his own political ends (Brendan SMIALOWSKI)
US President Joe Biden has played down his own suggestion that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is dragging out the war in Gaza for his own political ends (Brendan SMIALOWSKI)

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday appeared to play down a suggestion he made in an interview with Time magazine that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was dragging out the Gaza war for political reasons.

Speaking to Time last week, days before his announcement of an Israeli proposal for a Gaza ceasefire deal that Netanyahu greeted coolly, Biden was asked if he believed the Israeli was prolonging the conflict for his own political self-preservation.

"There is every reason for people to draw that conclusion," Biden replied in the interview, which was published Tuesday.

But later in the day at the White House, the 81-year-old appeared to back away from the claim.

"I don't think so, he's trying to work out this serious problem he has," Biden told reporters when asked if Netanyahu was "playing politics."

The US leader admitted however in the interview to wider tensions with Netanyahu, saying they had a "major disagreement" over the post-conflict future of Gaza.

He also added that Israel had engaged in "inappropriate" conduct during the war sparked by Hamas's October 7 attack.

"My major disagreement with Netanyahu is, what happens after... Gaza's over? What, what does it go back to? Do Israeli forces go back in?" said the Democrat.

"The answer is, if that's the case, it can't work."

- 'Bad guys' -

More broadly, the Democrat pitched his case in the Time interview as being better placed than election rival Donald Trump to secure the United States as "the world power."

"All the bad guys are rooting for Trump, man," Biden said.

"Name me a world leader other than Orban and Putin who thinks that Trump should be the world leader in the United States of America."

Biden argued that he was also more qualified than Trump to support Ukraine, thanks to his marshalling of Western support for Kyiv since Russia's 2022 invasion.

Biden said that under his watch, the Russian military had been "freaking decimated."

But he played down talk of Ukraine joining the NATO military alliance.

"Peace looks like making sure Russia never, never, never, never occupies Ukraine," Biden said. "And it doesn't mean NATO, (that) they are part of NATO."

As tensions remain high with China, Biden also reiterated that the United States would stand behind self-ruled Taiwan while saying Washington was not trying to change the status quo.

"We are not seeking independence for Taiwan nor will we in fact, not defend Taiwan if they, if China unilaterally tries to change the status," Biden said.

With polls showing US voters are concerned about Biden's age, despite the fact that Trump is only four years younger, Biden said he was still the better candidate.

"I can do it better than anybody, you know," Biden said when asked if he was fit to serve through a second term that would end when he was 86.

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