Biden: PM shackled by hardline coalition partners; Israel losing world support ‘by indiscriminate bombing’

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

President Joe Biden speaks to reporters in Nantucket, Massachusetts, November 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)
President Joe Biden speaks to reporters in Nantucket, Massachusetts, November 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)

WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline government has made it very difficult for the international community to back Israel in the war against Hamas. The president also says Israel is losing global support due to its “indiscriminate bombing” in Gaza.

Netanyahu is “a good friend, but I think he has to change and… This government in Israel is making it very difficult for him to move,” Biden says during a campaign fundraiser in Washington hosted by former AIPAC board chair Lee Rosenberg.

Biden goes on to call out National Security Minister Ben Gvir in particular and says, “This is the most conservative government in Israel’s history.

He says he’s known Israeli leaders for decades and laments that “Ben Gvir and company and the new folks “don’t want anything remotely approaching a two-state solution.”

“They not only want to have retribution — which they should — for what Hamas did, but against all Palestinians… They don’t want anything to with the Palestinians.”

He then takes a shot at the Palestinian leadership, without specifying whether he’s referring to Hamas or the Palestinian Authority. “The Palestinians have been not governed well at all.”

File: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on Nov. 30, 2023 (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser, Pool)

Referring to the rail and shipping corridor linking India with the Middle East and Europe that the US unveiled in September, Biden says there remains an “opportunity to begin to unite the region.”

“They still want to do it, but we have to make sure that Bibi understands that he’s got to make some moves to strengthen the [PA].

“You cannot say there’s no Palestinian state at all in the future,” Biden says.

He acknowledges that Israel currently faces “an existential threat.”

“Israel has a tough decision to make. Bibi has got a tough decision to make. There’s no question about the need to take on Hamas. None. Zero. They have every right,” he says, indicating that the way Israel goes about it is what is of concern to the US.

“But in the meantime, we’re not going to do a damn thing other than protect Israel… [and ensure they have] what they need to defend themselves and to finish the job against Hamas.”

“One of the things that Bibi understands — but I’m not sure Ben Gvir and his war cabinet do,” Biden continues, “is that Israel’s security can rest on the United States. But right now it has more than the United States — It has the European Union, it has most of the world supporting it.”

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir in southern Tel Aviv, September 3, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

“But they’re starting to lose that support by the indiscriminate bombing that takes place,” Biden says.

Last month, Biden also used the word “indiscriminate” to describe Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza. However, he was referring to the early stage of the war and indicated that the IDF has been more pin-pointed since. His comments at the fundraiser reveal that he no longer thinks that is the case.

The US president recalls how during one of their many conversations after October 7, Netanyahu sought to justify the deaths of civilians in Gaza by recalling how many of them died in the US response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

“You carpet-bombed Germany. You dropped the atom bomb. A lot of civilians died,” Biden quotes Netanyahu as having said.

“I said, ‘Yeah, that’s why all these institutions were set up after World War II to see to it that it didn’t happen again.'”

“Don’t make the same mistakes we made [after] 9/11. There was no reason why we had to be in a war in Afghanistan [after] 9/11. There was no reason why we had to do some of the things we did,” Biden said.

FILE – US President Joe Biden is greeted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport, October 18, 2023, in Tel Aviv. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

Biden still makes a point of referring to Hamas as “animals” who “exceeded anything that any other terrorist group has done… in memory.”

Still, he says that “We have to work toward bringing Israel together in a way that provides for the beginning of… a two-state solution.”

The president shifts subjects at one point to the judicial overhaul that Netanyahu’s government sought to advance before for the war.

“You saw what happened when Bibi tried to change the Supreme Court. Thousands of IDF soldiers said, ‘We’re out. We’re not going to participate. We’re not going to support the military,'” he said, referring to the thousands of reservists who protested the overhaul.

“That wasn’t any outside influence. That came from within Israel,” Biden says.

An earlier version of this report relied on a White House pooler who erroneously quoted Biden as having called on Netanyahu to change his government.

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