Biden says Netanyahu’s government has some of ‘the most extreme’ members he’s seen in Israel

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

US President Joe Biden speaks during an interview with CNN on July 9, 2023 (screenshot: Twitter)
US President Joe Biden speaks during an interview with CNN on July 9, 2023 (screenshot: Twitter)

US President Joe Biden says that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalition has some “of the most extreme” cabinet ministers he’s ever seen in Israel, and accuses ministers who back settling “anywhere they want” in the West Bank of being “part of the problem” in the conflict.

CNN presses the president on what it would take for him to extend an invitation to Netanyahu to visit the White House, but the president manages to dodge the question, noting that President Isaac Herzog will be coming to Washington next week. Herzog was invited by congressional leadership to address a joint session in honor of Israel’s 75th year of independence. He is also expected to meet with Biden in the White House but those invites are traditionally extended only a few days ahead of time.

Netanyahu has yet to receive a similar invitation, even though he’s been back in office for over six months. Biden told reporters in March that Netanyahu would not be coming in the “near term” amid US frustration over his government’s effort to radically curb the judiciary.

Despite the lack of an invitation, Biden stresses that he is an “unyielding supporter of Israel for… as long as I have been around.”

As for Netanyahu, Biden says, “I think [he] is trying to [figure out] how he can work through his existing problems in terms of his coalition.

The US president stresses that “Israel’s ultimate security rests on a two-state solution” with the Palestinians but laments: “I think it’s a mistake to think that, as some members of his cabinet — and this is one of the most extreme members of cabinets that I have seen. And I go all the way back to Golda Meir and all. Not that she was extreme, but I go back to that era.”

None of the current cabinet members have gone on record in recent years backing a two-state solution. Netanyahu said last month that Israel must “crush” Palestinian aspirations for a state.

Biden says that Israel is not all to blame for the latest uptick in violence in the West Bank, but “they are a part of the problem — particularly those individuals in the cabinet who say… we can settle anywhere we want, [and that the Palestinians] have no right to be here.”

Biden notes that the Palestinian Authority “has lost its credibility” not only because of Israel. But as a result, a “vacuum for extremism” has been created among the Palestinians. “There are some very extreme elements,” he says.

The US president says his administration is in regular contact with Israel, “trying to tamp down what’s going on.”

He then turns to the crisis over the Israeli government’s effort to overhaul the judiciary and says, “Hopefully, Bibi will continue to move toward moderation in changing the court.”

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