US President Joe Biden told Israel’s leaders on Tuesday that they were losing international support for their war in the Gaza Strip, exposing a widening rift with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who rejected out of hand the American vision for a postwar resolution to the conflict.
In a phone call, Biden pressed Netanyahu to agree to a ceasefire and to cooperate with Egypt and other regional partners to end the hostilities, according to a White House statement. Biden also expressed concern about the rising civilian casualties and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and reiterated his support for Israel’s right to defend itself.
However, Netanyahu showed no signs of backing down, telling Biden that he was “determined to continue this operation until its objective is achieved: to restore quiet and security to the citizens of Israel”, according to a statement from his office.
Netanyahu also dismissed Biden’s proposal for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying that it was “unrealistic and dangerous” and that it would “reward Hamas for its terrorism and aggression”.
The phone call, the fourth between the two leaders since the war erupted on October 7, underscored the growing divergence between Washington and Jerusalem over how to end the violence that has killed more than 17,000 Palestinians and 1400 Israelis.
Biden, who has faced mounting pressure from his own Democratic Party and the international community to take a more assertive role in the crisis, has publicly backed Israel’s right to self-defense, but has also urged it to avoid civilian casualties and to de-escalate the situation.
Biden has also refrained from publicly criticizing Israel’s actions, such as its airstrikes on Gaza’s civilian infrastructure, its evictions of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, and its crackdown on protesters in the occupied West Bank.
More Forceful in Private
However, behind the scenes, Biden and his top aides have been more forceful in their messages to Israel, warning that its military campaign was jeopardizing its international legitimacy and its prospects for peace with the Palestinians.
According to US officials, Biden has also conveyed to Netanyahu that he expects Israel to abide by the principles of international law and human rights, and to work towards a lasting solution that addresses the root causes of the conflict, such as the occupation, the settlements, and the blockade of Gaza.
Biden has also expressed his support for a two-state solution, which envisions the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, as the only viable way to end the decades-long conflict and to ensure the security and dignity of both peoples.
However, Netanyahu, who is facing a political and legal crisis at home, has shown no interest in engaging with Biden’s vision, or in addressing the grievances and aspirations of the Palestinians.
Netanyahu, who has been in power for 12 years, is struggling to form a new government after four inconclusive elections in two years, and is also on trial for corruption charges. He has relied on the support of hardline nationalist and religious parties, who oppose any concessions to the Palestinians or any dialogue with Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza.
Netanyahu has also portrayed the war as a necessary and justified response to Hamas’s rocket attacks on Israeli cities, which were triggered by Israel’s actions in Jerusalem, where it sought to evict Palestinian families from their homes and clashed with worshippers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites.
Netanyahu has vowed to continue the war until he achieves his goals of restoring calm and deterrence, and of destroying Hamas’s military capabilities, including its tunnels, rockets, and commanders.
However, analysts say that Netanyahu’s strategy is short-sighted and counterproductive, as it only deepens the cycle of violence and hatred, and strengthens Hamas’s popularity and legitimacy among the Palestinians, while weakening the moderate and pragmatic forces that seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
They also warn that Netanyahu’s defiance of Biden’s calls for a ceasefire and a two-state solution could damage the long-standing alliance between the US and Israel, and erode the bipartisan support that Israel enjoys in the US Congress and among the American public.
They urge Netanyahu to heed Biden’s advice and to seize the opportunity to end the war and to resume the dialogue with the Palestinians, with the help of the US and other regional and international partners, in order to achieve a just and lasting peace that serves the interests and values of both sides.