Biden: Netanyahu willing to do almost anything to return hostages

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

US President Joe Biden walks to his vehicle after arriving on Marine One at Delaware Air National Guard Base in New Castle, Del., Friday, May 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
US President Joe Biden walks to his vehicle after arriving on Marine One at Delaware Air National Guard Base in New Castle, Del., Friday, May 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

US President Joe Biden says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “prepared to do about anything to get the hostages back,” according to a full transcript of an interview he gave Time magazine.

The president also insists that Hamas is responsible for the lack of deal to date: “Hamas could end this tomorrow.”

The comments contrast with those included in a condensed writeup that cast Biden as much more critical of Netanyahu, saying people have “every reason” to believe the premier is dragging out the war in Gaza for political reasons.

Biden says that Netanyahu is under “enormous pressure” to secure a hostage deal: “The Israelis desperately want a ceasefire in order to get the hostages home.”

He also appears to defend Netanyahu when asked about former US president Donald Trump’s assertion that the prime minister should be criticized for failing to thwart the October 7 attack.

“I don’t know how any one person has that responsibility. He was the leader of the country, so therefore, it happened. But he wasn’t the only one that didn’t pick it up,” the president says.

US President Joe Biden, left, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, to discuss the the war between Israel and Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 18, 2023. (Miriam Alster/Pool Photo via AP)

“My major disagreement with Netanyahu is what happens after, what happens after Gaza’s over? What does it go back to? Do Israeli forces go back in? I’ve been talking to the Egyptians… the Saudis… the Jordanians… the Emiratis. The answer is, if that’s the case, it can’t work,” he says, indicating that Arab states will not be willing to assist in the post-war stabilization of Gaza if Israel remains in the Strip.

“There is a clear path for a transition where the Arab states would provide security and reconstruction in Gaza in return for a longer-term commitment to a transition to a two-state solution,” Biden says, referring to a framework that Netanyahu has rejected.

“There needs to be a two-state solution, a transition to a two-state solution. That’s my biggest disagreement with Bibi Netanyahu,” Biden says.

Biden says Saudi Arabia could also play a role in the post-war stabilization of Gaza.

Pressed on claims by critics of the Jewish state that Israel is intentionally starving Gazans, Biden responds, “No, I don’t think that.”

“I think they’ve engaged in activity that is inappropriate,” the president clarifies, and says Israel is making the same mistakes the US made in Afghanistan and Iraq that led to endless wars.

“One thing is certain, the people in Gaza, the Palestinians have suffered greatly, for lack of food, water, medicine, etc. And a lot of innocent people have been killed,” Biden says.

“But a lot of it has to do not just with Israelis, but what Hamas is doing in Israel as we speak,” he adds.

While his aides have repeatedly talked about Hamas’s use of human shields in Gaza, Biden instead highlights the terror group’s “intimidation” of the Israeli population.

He repeats how he visited Israel after the October 7 terror onslaught. “What they did exceeded anything I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot. Tying mothers and daughters together with rope and pouring kerosene on it and burning them to death. That kind of thing — attempting to intimidate. And it is dastardly,” Biden says.

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