Jill Biden reportedly privately pushing for end to war in Gaza

Palestinian-American doctor says he walked out of White House Ramadan event with president to protest US support for Israel

US First Lady Jill Biden speaks as President Joe Biden looks on at the White House Easter Egg Roll, April 1, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US First Lady Jill Biden speaks as President Joe Biden looks on at the White House Easter Egg Roll, April 1, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Among those closest to US President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden is privately one of the loudest in calling for an end to the Israel-Hamas war, lamenting the high civilian death toll, according to a report Wednesday.

Quoting a participant at a Ramadan event that Biden held Tuesday, The New York Times reported another attendee said his wife was not happy he was there due to the president’s backing for Israel. Biden reportedly said he understood and that his wife has been urging him to “stop it, stop it now.”

In response, White House officials quoted in the report said there was no difference between the president and first lady, and that they were equally upset about civilian casualties. They also denied she was calling for Israel to end its military offensive against Hamas.

The New York Times report was titled “Jill Biden Privately Urges an End to Conflict in Gaza,” but did not definitively quote her making such a demand of her husband.

“Just like the president, the first lady is heartbroken over the attacks on aid workers and the ongoing loss of innocent lives in Gaza,” said Elizabeth Alexander, the first lady’s communications director. “They both want Israel to do more to protect civilians.”

Meanwhile, a Palestinian-American doctor who attended the Ramadan event with the US president said he walked out to show solidarity with the people of the Gaza Strip.

Thaer Ahmad, who traveled to Gaza earlier this year, told CNN he left the meeting between Biden and members of the Muslim community in protest at US “rhetoric” supporting Israel.

“I let him know that I am from a community that’s reeling. We are grieving. Our heart is broken for what’s been taking place over the last six months,” Ahmad, an emergency doctor from Chicago, said he told the president.

Demonstrators rally in support of Palestinians, April 2, 2024, at Lafayette Park across from the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

He said he then “let him know that out of respect for my community, out of respect for all of the people who have suffered, who have been killed in the process, I need to walk out of the meeting.”

Biden “actually said that he understood,” he added.

The White House said on Wednesday that Biden respected the doctor’s stance.

“The president respects any American’s right to peacefully protest,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told a briefing. “He understands that this is a painful moment for many Americans.”

Biden had downsized the traditional event to mark the Muslim holy month of Ramadan amid growing Democratic anger over his support for Israel’s offensive in Gaza following Hamas’s October 7 atrocities in which terrorists murdered some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped 253.

Muslim leaders met the president but asked for there to be no fast-breaking dinner, with Biden holding only a small meal separately with Muslim White House staff.

Criticism of Israel’s campaign in Gaza intensified further this week after an IDF airstrike killed seven employees of a US-based charity, World Central Kitchen, on Monday. The Israeli military has apologized for the strike and launched an investigation.

Biden said on Tuesday he was “outraged” and accused Israel of not doing enough to protect aid workers or civilians, in one of his strongest statements since the war started.

“I think you can sense the frustration in that statement yesterday,” US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

File: US President Joe Biden speaks at an event in Raleigh, North Carolina, March 26, 2024. (Matt Kelley/AP)

But the White House said that Biden continued to support Israel’s “right to defend itself” and there were no plans to curb arms deliveries to the key US ally.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza claims that more than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel in the war, but the number cannot be independently verified as it is believed to include both Hamas terrorists and civilians, some of whom were killed as a consequence of the terror group’s own rocket misfires.

The IDF says it has killed over 13,000 terrorists in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 who were killed inside Israel on and immediately following October 7.

The US has continued to support Israel’s right to defend itself against attack throughout the war, while pressuring Israel to continue allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Tensions between the two countries grew last week when the US abstained from a UN Security Council vote on a resolution demanding a temporary ceasefire and hostage release without explicitly conditioning the former on the latter. Israel had expected the US to veto the vote, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a diplomatic trip of Israeli officials to Washington over the move, which was later rescheduled as a video call.

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