US President Joe Biden and top administration aides “are closer to a breach” with Prime Benjamin Netanyahu over the Gaza war and no longer consider him “a productive partner who can be influenced even in private,” the Washington Post reports, citing “six people familiar with the conversations.”
Biden’s aides have been encouraging the president to distance himself from Netanyahu amid “mounting frustration” with the Israeli leader, according to the report, and “to be more publicly critical of the prime minister over his country’s military operation in Gaza” while remaining supportive of Israel.
Biden in recent days has delivered some of his sharpest criticisms of Israel, including calling its response in Gaza following Oct. 7 “over the top.” A top White House official also said Friday that there wasn’t “any confidence” in the current Israeli government in a meeting with Arab American leaders in Dearborn, Michigan.
The US has also voiced opposition to Israel’s planned offensive in Rafah, the last Hamas stronghold in Gaza.
A senior Biden administration official told NBC News today that there was “a growing divide between the US and Israel,” specifically over the potential operation in Rafah. The White House and State Department said last week that they would not support an IDF operation in the city before extensive planning was done on protecting civilians.
“They’re already living in tents and not getting enough food and water and you’re saying go somewhere else,” one outside adviser to the White House tells the Washington Post. “Where? How are they supposed to get there?”
Netanyahu has vowed to fight in Gaza until “total victory,” a war goal over which the US has repeatedly raised doubts. Washington has also expressed frustrations over Israel’s lack of a clear plan for the day after the war.
“I don’t think anybody can look at what the Israelis have done in Gaza and not say it’s over the top,” a White House official tells the Post. “This gets to the frustration with the Israelis. Have they done the work on what comes next in Gaza? No. They haven’t grappled with the really hard questions.”
Netanyahu and Biden are slated to speak later today for the first time since Biden said Israel’s response was exaggerated.