Biden caught on hot mic: I told Bibi we’re going to have a ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting

US president expressing mounting frustration with Netanyahu over humanitarian situation in the Strip, says Israeli leader needs to do more to avert the crisis

US President Joe Biden shakes hands after delivering the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Thursday, March 7, 2024, in Washington. (Shawn Thew/Pool via AP)
US President Joe Biden shakes hands after delivering the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Thursday, March 7, 2024, in Washington. (Shawn Thew/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON  — US President Joe Biden’s frustration with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to mount, with the Democrat captured on a hot mic saying that he and the Israeli leader will need to have a “come to Jesus” meeting.

The comments by Biden came as he spoke with Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., on the floor of the House chamber following Thursday night’s State of the Union address.

In the exchange, Bennet congratulated Biden on his speech and urged the president to keep pressing Netanyahu on growing humanitarian concerns in Gaza. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg were also part of the brief conversation.

Biden responded using Netanyahu’s nickname, saying, “I told him, Bibi, and don’t repeat this, but you and I are going to have a ‘come to Jesus’ meeting.”

An aide to the president standing nearby then spoke quietly into the president’s ear, appearing to alert Biden that microphones remained on as he worked the room.

“I’m on a hot mic here,” Biden said after being alerted. “Good. That’s good.”

“Come to Jesus” is an American expression for having a blunt conversation.

Biden has had a checkered, decades-long relationship with Netanyahu, but those ties have come under particular strain in recent months, as Washington sours over Israel’s prosecution of the war in Gaza amid a growing feeling that the premier is not doing enough to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

The president on Friday acknowledged the comments, lightheartedly poking at reporters that they were “eavesdropping” on his conversation. Asked if he thought Netanyahu needs to do more to alleviate the humanitarian suffering, Biden responded, “Yes, he does.”

A widening humanitarian crisis across Gaza and tight Israeli control of aid trucks have left virtually the entire population desperately short of food, according to the United Nations. Officials have been warning for months that Israel’s siege and offensive were pushing the Hamas-run Palestinian territory into famine. Israel says it has made much more aid available than the UN has proved capable of delivering.

Aid parcels are airdropped over the northern Gaza Strip on March 8, 2024. (AFP)

Biden has become increasingly public about his frustration with the Netanyahu government’s unwillingness to open more land crossings for critically needed aid to make its way into Gaza.

In his address on Thursday, he called on the Israelis to do more to alleviate the suffering even as they try to eliminate Hamas.

“To Israel, I say this humanitarian assistance cannot be a secondary consideration or a bargaining chip,” Biden said.

The president announced in his speech Thursday that the US military would help establish a temporary pier aimed at boosting the amount of aid getting into the territory. Last week, the US military began air-dropping aid into Gaza.

Biden said the temporary pier ”will enable a massive increase in humanitarian assistance getting into Gaza.”

Israel launched its war on Hamas after the October 7 onslaught in which thousands of terrorists crossed the border, killing some 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and taking another 253 hostages.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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