US President Joe Biden’s unusually blunt demand Wednesday that Israel de-escalate its military attack on Gaza is creating a rare rift between the two countries and dismaying some of Israel’s supporters in the United States, while heartening Democrats who have increasingly pushed for a tougher U.S. stance toward Israel.
For day, Biden has hesitated to publicly confront Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and his demand for “a significant de-escalation today on the path of a cease-fire” shook up the worlds of politics and diplomacy.
This was clear evidence yet of a rapidly changing political dynamic, at least among Democrats, that is far less accepting of actions Israel says it is taking in self-defense.
The White House told Netanyahu in recent days that the ground is shifting in the United States, even among some lawmakers who have long been supportive of Israel, said two people familiar with aspects of the message.
That shift was the backdrop for the call on Wednesday, the fourth between the two leaders since the beginning of the hostilities.
However, Netanyahu vowed on Wednesday to continue with the 10-day military offensive “until its aim is met,” meaning until Hamas target are destroyed. That public defiance underlined his disconnect with Biden, which is all the more notable because Netanyahu, whose own domestic political position is precarious, closely embraced former President Donald Trump.
Following his visit to military headquarters, Netanyahu said that he “greatly appreciates the support of the American president” but that Israel would push ahead “to return the calm and security to you, citizens of Israel”.
Biden has no direct authority to impose a cease-fire on Israel, but the stern White House message was unmistakable: If Netanyahu carries the conflict much further, he risks losing significant backing in Washington.