Biden breaks with Prime Minister Netanyahu but sticks to Israel

President Biden has begun a difficult strategy to break with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his strategy in the Gaza war, while sticking to the fight between Israel and Hamas, which continues to take hostages.

Why it matters: Nothing happened that prompted Biden to begin changing course with Prime Minister Netanyahu, his friend of 40 years. U.S. officials told Axios that this is a culmination of events and decisions made by the prime minister over the past few weeks.

Between the lines: Biden has been hopeful for weeks that he could use the war to advance a major post-battle deal with Saudi Arabia. But Mr. Biden in many ways holds Netanyahu responsible for the collapse of the deal.

Behind the Scenes: U.S. officials say Biden and many other senior officials in the White House and State Department are deeply unhappy with what they see as Netanyahu’s ingratitude.

Biden has provided unprecedented support to the Israeli government over the past five months, at the expense of strong opposition from the presidential party during an election year.
Driving the news: Biden’s State of the Union address contained major hints about his changes in relations with Netanyahu. The president did not mention his name, but he referred to “Israel’s leadership.”

In his speech, Biden was relatively sparing in his criticism of the Israeli government. However, the conversation with Democratic senators after the speech was recorded on Hotspeaker, showing that the president’s thoughts were more severe.
“I said to Pepe, ‘You and I are going to have a Jesus rally,'” he told Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) before realizing he was being recorded.
Biden told MSNBC’s Jonathan Capehart that “come to Jesus” is “an expression used in the southern part of my state that means a serious meeting. … I’ve known Pepe for 50 years. , and he understood what I meant by the word ‘Jesus.’ -she. ‘
Biden told Capehart that Netanyahu should “pay more attention to the innocent lives lost as a result of the actions taken” in Gaza.

He added: “This hurts Israel more than it helps by making the rest of the world happy. And it goes against Israel’s ideals. I think it’s a big mistake.”
But Biden said: “We will never leave Israel. It’s still important to protect Israel.”
Zoom out: Biden has reached a stage in his relationship with Netanyahu that was reached by his three predecessors: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

Mr. Clinton was able to break with Mr. Netanyahu without compromising his pro-Israel record. Obama distanced himself from the prime minister, but lost Israelis in the process. The outcome of President Trump’s break with Prime Minister Netanyahu will not be known until he is re-elected.
But for Biden, the stakes are much higher. America’s strongest ally in the region is experiencing its worst crisis in more than 50 years, the region is boiling over with the start of the month of Ramadan, and the presidential campaign is gaining momentum.
What to watch: Netanyahu’s planned military operation in Rafah, where more than 1.5 million Palestinians have fled elsewhere in Gaza and are seeking refuge, could be a defining moment.

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