President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s relationship is increasingly strained due to the ongoing conflict in Gaza, which is placing immense political pressure on both leaders.
Despite facing intense criticism from voters and Democratic lawmakers for the high Palestinian death toll, Biden has remained a staunch defender of Israel.
Netanyahu’s stance complicates Biden’s two-state solution efforts
Netanyahu’s dismissal of Biden’s advocacy for a two-state solution post-Gaza conflict complicates the U.S. President’s position.
Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) expressed frustration, noting, “Prime Minister Netanyahu is rebuffing the Biden administration at virtually every turn.”
The Israeli Prime Minister’s approach, according to Van Hollen, is detrimental to both Israel and the United States.
Since the Israeli retaliation to Hamas’s attack on October 7, Biden’s administration has been navigating a complex situation.
Biden admin balances Israel’s objectives with Gaza humanitarian concerns
They are supporting Israel’s aim to defeat Hamas while also being mindful of the Palestinian humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Dennis Ross, a seasoned Middle East negotiator, mentioned that the administration is eager to see an improvement in humanitarian assistance and a reduction in civilian casualties.
The White House, despite international pressure, has not endorsed a ceasefire, fearing it would benefit Hamas.
Nonetheless, they are supporting efforts for a temporary halt in hostilities to facilitate humanitarian aid and the release of around 100 hostages.
U.S. and Israel diverge on Gaza approach and two-state solution
White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby confirmed ongoing discussions for a pause.
Netanyahu has been clear about his intentions, stating, “Only total victory will ensure the elimination of Hamas and the return of all our hostages.”
He remains opposed to Biden’s calls for restraint in Gaza and rejects the establishment of a Palestinian state in the post-conflict scenario.
While publicly downplaying these differences, Biden has acknowledged the complexity of the two-state solution. “There are a number of types of two-state solutions,” he said, indicating different approaches to the issue. His comments suggest influence from his conversations with Netanyahu.
Decades-long Biden-Netanyahu relationship
Biden and Netanyahu’s relationship spans nearly 40 years, including Biden’s time as Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair and vice president.
Their interactions have seen highs and lows, from U.S.-led peace talks to Netanyahu’s opposition to Obama’s Iran nuclear deal.
In 2023, Biden has voiced concerns over Netanyahu’s alliances with far-right politicians and controversial judicial reforms.
Biden is using substantial political capital to support Netanyahu amid increasing calls for a ceasefire and public protests.
Biden’s stance on Israel-Hamas conflict faces domestic and global scrutiny
Pro-Palestine advocates warn this could affect Biden’s support in key states. Still, a majority of U.S. public opinion backs Israel in its conflict with Hamas.
Fawaz Gerges, an expert in Middle Eastern politics, notes, “No serious presidential contender would basically take on either Netanyahu or Israel.”
Biden’s administration aims to balance the degradation of Hamas with the promotion of a Palestinian state, offering normalization with Saudi Arabia as an incentive.
Netanyahu’s stance, however, is causing international isolation. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell criticized Netanyahu’s rejection of a two-state solution.
Growing domestic criticism in Israel against Netanyahu’s handling of conflict
Within Israel, protests have resumed against Netanyahu, highlighting public dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of the conflict and the failure to secure hostage releases.
Gadi Eisenkot, a former Israeli military head, has called for post-war elections. Families of hostages, like Liz Naftali, criticize Netanyahu for prioritizing political power over swift resolutions.
Senator Van Hollen summarizes, “He’s a very gifted politician, but that does not mean he’s taking the right course now.”
This sentiment reflects growing concerns over Netanyahu’s leadership approach amidst the complex geopolitical landscape.