WASHINGTON − President Joe Biden warned Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel is losing international support over the war in Gaza and pushed back at Israeli’s post-war vision in the president’s most direct criticism of the Israeli government amid the Middle East conflict.
Biden, speaking to supporters during a private campaign fundraiser at a Washington D.C. hotel, singled out Israel’s “indiscriminate bombing” of Gaza as the reason it is “starting to lose” support around the world. He urged Netanyahu to find a long-term solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Bibi’s got a tough decision to make,” Biden, referring to Netanyahu, said. “He’s a good friend, but I think he has to change − with this government. This government in Israel is making it very difficult for him to move.”
Biden’s remarks came after Netanyahu, in a video statement, said Israel has the “full backing” of the U.S. and that it blocked “international pressure” for Israel to end the war. But Netanyahu said he has failed to reach an agreement with Biden on the future of Gaza after Hamas is defeated.
Netanyahu opposes any role for the Palestinian Authority in Gaza after the war while the Biden administration supports a two-state solution for Israel and Palestinians.
“There is a disagreement when it comes to ‘the day after Hamas,’” Netanyahu said. “I hope we will come to an agreement there, too.”
At the fundraiser, Biden took aim at Netanyahu’s government, calling it “the most conservative government in Israel’s history” and adding that Netanyahu “doesn’t want a two-state solution.” Biden mentioned by name Israel’s far-right politician Itamar Ben-Gvir, who serves as Israel’s national security minister.
“We have an opportunity to begin to unite the region,” Biden said, “and they still want to do it. But we have to make sure that Bibi understands that he’s got to make some moves to strengthen it, change it, move it. You cannot say there’s no Palestinian state at all in the future. And that’s going to be the hard part.”
He added: “But in the meantime, we’re not going to do a damn thing other than protect Israel in the process.”
Biden to Netanyahu: ‘Don’t make the same mistakes we made’
Biden has stood in solidary with Israel following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel and defended its military actions amid global criticism over mounting civilian casualties in Gaza. The U.S., bucking nearly every other Security Council members, vetoed a United Nations resolution last week that called for a Gaza cease-fire.
Yet the Biden administration has started to shift its tone and criticize how Israel is carrying out its war. During a Dec. 2 speech in Dubai, Vice President Kamala Harris said “international humanitarian law must be respected” and that “too many innocent Palestinians have been killed.”
Speaking at a White House event Monday celebrating Hanukkah, Biden warned Israel to “be careful.”
“The whole world’s public opinion can shift,” Biden said. “We can’t let that happen.”
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, is set to travel to Israel later this week to discuss the war with members of Netanyahu’s cabinet.
Biden, in his remarks to donors at the fundraiser, recounted a private conversation with Netanyahu in which the Israeli leader told him, “‘You carpet-bombed Germany. You dropped the atom bomb. A lot of civilians died.'”
Biden said he told Netanyahu: “Yeah, that’s why all these institutions were set up after World War II to see to it that it didn’t happen again − it didn’t happen again. Don’t make the same mistakes we made in 9/11. There’s no reason why we had to be in a war in Afghanistan.”
Reach Joey Garrison on X @joeygarrison.