Saturday, July 20, 2024

Biden says Israel's military behavior in Gaza 'over the top'

President Biden on Thursday said he was “over the top” in his strong condemnation of Israel's military campaign in Gaza, and said he hoped ongoing talks on releasing hostages in exchange for a long-term ceasefire would lay the groundwork for a change of course. of war.

“The response behavior in the Gaza Strip is very high,” Biden said. “I'm working very hard right now to get this hostage cease-fire going. I'm working tirelessly on this deal… because I think if we get a delay, an early delay — we can increase the chance that this fight in Gaza will turn around.”

Biden, who has been reluctant to elaborate on the suffering in Gaza, has spoken in even more visceral terms about the frustrations in the enclave.

“I'm working very hard to get humanitarian aid into Gaza. There are a lot of innocent people starving. A lot of innocent people are in trouble, they're dying, and it has to stop,” Biden said.

The comments mark a stunning turnaround for Biden, who has an emotional connection to Israel, even as anger grows among the left-leaning part of the Democratic base over the war in Gaza and its massive civilian toll. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, Israeli airstrikes and attacks over the past four months have killed 27,000 Palestinians and created a humanitarian catastrophe in the densely populated area of ​​more than 2 million people.

Israel's military campaign came in response to an October 7 attack by Hamas militants, in which they breached Israel's border fence with Gaza, killing 1,200 Israelis, many of them civilians, and taking about 250 hostages. Biden has twice bypassed Congress to send hundreds of millions of dollars in arms to Israel, angering some Senate Democrats.

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The president has resisted pressure to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, which polls show a majority of Democratic voters support. But his unwavering support for Israel cost him politically, as young voters, people of color, and Arab Americans and Muslim Americans strongly objected to his handling of the war. Still, Congress is debating a foreign aid bill that includes $14 billion in aid to Israel, which passed a key threshold in the Senate on Thursday.

Earlier on Thursday, a panel of senior policy advisers trip to michigan, With a large Arab American and Muslim population, he must meet with members of the community and elected officials to try to drum up support. The state is key to Biden's path to a second term, but the president faces tough problems there, especially as many Arab-American and Muslim voters rally to ensure members of their communities don't back Biden in November.

Biden and his aides are furious with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has repeatedly ignored U.S. calls to limit civilian casualties, halt military operations in Gaza and deliver more aid to the enclave, where hundreds of thousands of residents are at risk of starvation. and disease.

In recent weeks, despite hundreds of millions of dollars in arms transfers and unwavering support, Netanyahu has publicly humiliated Biden, even as global condemnation mounts. Netanyahu has become increasingly resistant to the prospect of a two-state solution — which Biden has said should follow the end of the war — and this week rejected a deal to free some Israeli hostages in exchange for a long-term ceasefire. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken fought while in the region.

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Netanyahu infuriated US officials when he vowed to continue an Israeli military campaign in Rafah, the southern Gaza Strip, where more than 1 million Palestinians have fled for safety under Israeli orders. On Thursday, White House spokesman John Kirby said any Israeli action in Rafah under the current circumstances would be “disastrous for those people, and we will not support it.”

On Thursday, Biden released a national security memo that calls on the State Department to seek written guarantees from countries that receive U.S. weapons. Adherence to international law and that recipients “shall not arbitrarily deny, restrict, or embargo” US humanitarian assistance.

The memo came in response to growing criticism from key Democrats over Israel's military campaign and its adherence to international law despite receiving US arms and billions of dollars in aid.

Speaking about his efforts to get aid into Gaza, Biden described how he pressured Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to open the country's Rafah border crossing with Gaza, which Sisi initially refused to do, fearing that Israel would forcibly relocate Palestinians. His country. But Biden mistakenly referred to Sisi as “the president of Mexico.”

Biden's comments came at the end of a hastily arranged media conference in which the president addressed the findings of a special counsel report released Thursday about his handling of classified documents. The report absolves him of any criminal wrongdoing, but special counsel Robert K. Harr questioned their memory and mental agility.

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