Psaki: Biden ‘leverage’ on Israel should’ve been used earlier

Former White House press secretary Jen Psaki suggested President Biden should have employed his “leverage” much earlier, referring to her former boss’s threat to stop sending weapons to Israel amid its war with Hamas in Gaza.

Psaki, who currently serves as an MSNBC host, said Biden’s withholding of some weapons to Israel is a “significant sign,” considering the close relationship the two countries have had over the years.

“I do think that there’s some leverage we’re all seeing being used,” Psaki said earlier this week in an appearance on CBS’s “The Late Show” with host Stephen Colbert.

“Should it have been used earlier? I think the answer is yes to that,” she continued. “But we are seeing them pull back in the sending of weapons. That’s actually a pretty significant sign, given that the United States and Israel has a long-standing connection on military support, where the United States is a big provider of that.”

Biden warned Israel earlier this week in an interview with CNN that he would halt the weapons supply if the military proceeded with a full-scale invasion of Rafah. More than a million Palestinians have sought refuge in the southern Gaza city after they were forced to evacuate their homes earlier in the fighting.

The president has faced mounting pressure from his left flank over his administration’s handling of the conflict. Critics argue the U.S. should withhold weapons transfers to the U.S. ally and that a permanent cease-fire should be brokered.

“I made it clear that if they go into Rafah — they haven’t gone in Rafah yet — if they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities — that deal with that problem,” Biden said on Wednesday.

His administration has also reportedly paused sending some bombs to Israel due to concerns over the country’s incursion in Rafah. The White House has been opposed to the operation and has urged Israel to come up with an evacuation plan for civilians in the area before proceeding into the region.

Biden’s move has sparked pushback from Republicans, who have argued that there should be no conditions on the U.S. ] providing aid and weapons to Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the operation in Rafah will move ahead, stating Thursday that “If we need to stand alone, we will stand alone.”

Psaki said the halt in sending weapons to allies is a rare move and explained that Biden has had a “tricky” relationship with Netanyahu, which is often not visible.

“Not many times before. But it has happened before, but not many times before. But that is a pretty significant step,” Psaki said.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu, I would say, is someone Joe Biden has had a tricky, challenging, difficult relationship with for some time,” she added. “People don’t always see that. That isn’t talked about.”

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