WASHINGTON — In recent private conversations, some with campaign donors, President Joe Biden is voicing his frustration at his inability to persuade Israel to change its military tactics in the Gaza Strip, and he names Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a major obstacle. , according to five people directly familiar with his comments.
Biden said he was trying to get Israel to agree to a truce, but Netanyahu was “giving it to hell” and couldn’t be dealt with, people familiar with Biden’s comments said on condition of anonymity.
“He just feels like enough is enough,” one person said of Biden’s comments. “This has to stop.”
Biden has spoken privately about Netanyahu, a leader he has known for decades, in recent weeks, surprising some of those on the receiving end of his comments with his candor, people familiar with them said. His descriptions of his relationship with Netanyahu are peppered with derogatory references to Netanyahu as “that guy,” these people said. At least three times, Biden called Netanyahu an “ass,” according to three people directly familiar with the comments.
Asked about Biden’s personal comments about Netanyahu, the spokesperson of the National Security Council said that there is a respectful relationship between the two leaders. “The President has made it clear that he disagrees with Prime Minister Netanyahu, but it is a decades-long relationship that is respected in public and in private,” the spokesman said.
Biden has grown since giving Netanyahu a bear hug during his visit to Israel on Oct. 7, after a Hamas terror attack killed 1,200 Israelis. increasingly frustrated The Palestinian civilian death toll in Gaza, now reported at 28,000, and Netanyahu’s reluctance to reach a lasting peace deal.
The openness of Biden’s personal, unfiltered views on Netanyahu, as well as the Israeli prime minister’s failure to change tactics in Gaza, suggest that the dynamic between the two leaders may be nearing a tipping point.
Israel is planning a ground attack on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, home to more than a million Palestinians displaced from northern Gaza. Netanyahu has vowed to continue the operation if Israel does not provide safe passage to Palestinian civilians, even though US officials have repeatedly expressed their open objections to it.
On Sunday, Biden told Netanyahu in a phone call that he believes “the military operation in Rafah cannot proceed without a credible and workable plan” to protect and support Palestinians sheltering there, the White House said in a statement.
Their 45-minute conversation focused on the long-negotiated but repeatedly delayed deal between Israel and Hamas to release hostages held in Gaza in exchange for a ceasefire and the release of Palestinian prisoners. According to the White House.
Biden took a noticeably sharper tone on Thursday, calling Israel’s military assault on Gaza “great.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken also spoke strongly after meeting with Netanyahu in Israel last week. Blinken told Netanyahu that the daily death toll of Palestinian civilians due to Israeli military operations “remains very high.”
However, people familiar with Biden’s personal comments said he believed it would be counterproductive for him to be publicly too tough on Netanyahu.
Biden’s frustration with Netanyahu hasn’t led to a major policy shift either, but his administration has begun to consider such options. Two weeks ago, officials told NBC News The administration said Netanyahu was discussing delaying or slowing U.S. arms sales to Israel as a means to get Israel to end military operations in Gaza and do more to protect civilians.
In another potential policy change, NBC reported last week administration officials are preparing options for official recognition of an independent Palestinian state.
However, while Biden has stepped up his rhetoric, he is not yet ready to make significant policy changes, officials said. He and his assistants continue to believe in his approach unequivocally supports Israel is correct.
Some Democrats in Congress have called for conditions for US aid to Israel. Other Democrats, including military veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, echoed that experience and He questioned Israel’s tacticsargues that heavy bombing and steep civilian casualties are counterproductive methods that only fuel extremist threats.
One of the irritants in Biden’s recent private conversations is his sense that his administration is making good deals for Israel, such as the recent one involving Saudi Arabia, only for Netanyahu to reject them, people familiar with his comments said.
The agreement to release the hostages and end Israeli military operations would cap weeks of high-level efforts to secure a pact that Biden and his top aides hope could lead to a lasting ceasefire.
However, the president said he wanted the war to continue so Netanyahu could stay in power.
Biden spoke to a small group of donors at a fundraiser he attended in recent weeks about his frustrations with Israel and Netanyahu. In response to being thanked for standing with Israel and against anti-Semitism, Biden took the opportunity to share some of his thoughts, according to a supporter in attendance.
“I’m a Zionist,” Biden said, echoing the supporter’s view that Hamas must be destroyed and Israel preserved.
But Biden also expressed his frustration with Netanyahu, who is often referred to as “Bibi”.
“He said Bibi is off to a great start, but ‘I’ve been a pain in the ass lately’ or ‘she’s been killing me lately,’ one of those things,” a person who attended Biden’s comments recalled. .. late.