Biden Calls Netanyahu’s Approach In Gaza ‘A Mistake’ Amid Widening Rift With Israeli Leader

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President Joe Biden branded Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of Israel’s war with Hamas a “mistake” in an interview aired Tuesday, strengthening criticism of his Israeli counterpart amid growing concern over the deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, but absent major changes in Washington’s policy towards its closest ally in the Middle East.

“I think what he’s doing is a mistake,” Biden said in an interview with the U.S. Spanish-language network Univision.

“I don’t agree with his approach,” the U.S. president added, responding to a question over whether Netanyahu’s handling of the war has more to do with “political survival” than Israel’s national interest.

The interview was conducted on April 3, just days after Israeli forces fired on a humanitarian convoy and killed seven food aid workers from World Central Kitchen, including 33-year-old U.S.-Canadian dual national Jacob Flickinger.

Biden condemned the strike as “outrageous” and said Israel should agree to a ceasefire and allow “total access” to all food and medicine into Gaza for the next six to eight weeks.

Biden said he’s spoken to other countries in the region—”everyone from the Saudis to the Jordanian to the Egyptians”—who are all “prepared to move this food in.”

“I think there’s no excuse to not provide for the medical and the food needs of those people,” Biden added, emphasizing that “it should be done now.”

Biden’s comments are some of his most forceful critiques of Netanyahu, a veteran politician and Israel’s longest-serving leader who is struggling to retain control of his divided coalition as the war with Hamas drags on. While the U.S. has largely stood by its fiercest ally in the Middle East as it fights to eradicate Hamas in Gaza, Israel’s continued failure to address the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the territory has sparked growing discontent, culminating in the U.S. failing to exercise its veto during censuring Israel in a UN Security Council vote. While Washington’s policy towards Israel did not change—notably on applying conditions on the sale of arms—the move reportedly incensed Netanyahu, who called off a planned delegation visiting the country. Israel’s attack on the WCK aid convoy marked another change, with Biden slamming the strike and humanitarian situation in Gaza as “unacceptable” in a call with Netanyahu, urging Israel to empower its negotiators to free hostages and to take concrete steps to address civilian harm.

The interview aired amid speculation of an impending assault on the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu claims a date has been set for the attack, though he has not provided further details. Some U.S. officials reportedly believe the Israeli prime minister’s comments are little more than bluster fueled by Netanyahu’s floundering political situation at home. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said no date has been communicated to the U.S. “I don’t see anything imminent,” he added.

Biden’s comments to Univision not only mark an escalation in his criticism of Netanyahu but also a potential shift in the U.S. approach to Israel on the international stage. Washington has typically coupled calls for a ceasefire with the need for Hamas to release the hostages it is holding, though Biden did not include this condition, according to the interview transcript.

Univision’s interview with Biden can be watched on its website. An English transcript is available below the video.

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