Biden Hints Netanyahu is Prolonging Gaza War for Political Survival

Alex Sterling
Alex Sterling
7 Min Read

US President Joe Biden suggested in an interview published Tuesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be extending the war in Gaza to maintain his political position, and he stated it was “uncertain” whether Israel had committed war crimes.

“There is every reason for people to draw that conclusion,” Biden said when asked if he believed Netanyahu was prolonging the conflict for political reasons, echoing a widespread belief in Washington and other capitals that the Israeli leader is using the war as a buffer against political backlash.

“Before the war began, he was facing significant opposition from the Israeli military over his proposed judicial changes,” Biden noted, referring to Netanyahu’s controversial judicial overhaul that had sparked protests before the October 7 attacks by Hamas, which triggered the current conflict.

Biden added that whether Netanyahu would alter his stance is hard to predict, but noted, “it has not been helpful.”

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The president’s comments came as he prepared to deliver a speech detailing what he called an Israeli proposal to end the war and secure the release of hostages. The speech aimed to pressure Hamas and Israel to end the conflict but also put Netanyahu under scrutiny as the war in Gaza continued. Despite being an Israeli proposal, Netanyahu has not publicly endorsed the plan, and members of his far-right government have threatened to resign if the plan is adopted.

Biden’s detailed presentation of Israel’s plan highlighted his growing impatience with the stalemate in negotiations to secure the hostages’ release. “Bibi is under enormous pressure on the hostages… and so he’s prepared to do about anything to get the hostages back,” Biden said, using Netanyahu’s nickname.

When asked if Netanyahu was “playing politics” with the Gaza war, Biden responded, “I don’t think so. He’s trying to work out a serious problem he has,” after a speech on immigration.

Tensions between Biden and Netanyahu have increased as the war drags on. The US has expressed frustration with some of Israel’s military tactics, which officials believe do not adequately protect civilians. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby downplayed Biden’s comments, stating, “I think the president was very clear in his answer on that, and we’ll let the prime minister speak to his own politics and to what his critics are saying.”

Biden said in the interview that it wasn’t clear whether Israel’s actions constituted war crimes, a charge made by the International Criminal Court, but acknowledged that Israel had engaged in “activity that is inappropriate.” He added that the situation in Gaza, where many innocent people have suffered and died, has been exacerbated by Hamas’s actions in Israel.

Inside the White House, many see Netanyahu’s reluctance to end the war as a reflection of his precarious political situation, which could worsen with investigations into potential intelligence failures before the October 7 attacks. Biden declined to directly blame Netanyahu for security lapses, saying, “I don’t know how any one person has that responsibility.”

Biden’s main disagreement with Netanyahu lies in the latter’s refusal to plan for post-war Gaza and his opposition to a two-state solution. “My major disagreement with Netanyahu is, what happens after Gaza? There needs to be a transition to a two-state solution,” Biden said.

Kirby acknowledged past clashes between Biden and Netanyahu, particularly over the viability of a two-state solution, but affirmed, “we’re going to make sure that Israel has what it needs to continue to eliminate the threat by Hamas, and we’re going to continue to work with the prime minister and the war cabinet to try to get this proposal over the finish line.”

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