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Biden, Netanyahu speak for first time in weeks amid rising tensions

President Biden spoke Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, marking the first time the two have spoken since Biden said the prime minister was “hurting Israel more than helping” and a top Democrat called for new elections in Israel.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters the two men discussed the latest developments in Gaza and the state of Israel’s military operations.

“The president emphasized his bone-deep commitment to ensuring the long-term security of Israel, and he affirmed, as he did in the State of the Union, that Israel has a right to go after Hamas,” Sullivan said, noting Israel has made “significant progress” in weakening Hamas.

But, Sullivan noted, a humanitarian crisis has gripped Gaza and thousands of Palestinian civilians have been killed in the fighting.

“The president told the prime minister again today that we share the goal of defeating Hamas, but we just believe you need a coherent and sustainable strategy to make that happen,” Sullivan said.

The two leaders agreed to stay in touch in the coming weeks, Sullivan said.

Biden has sought to balance his frustrations with Netanyahu with his administration’s support for Israel in its war against Hamas. The president has repeatedly asserted Israel has a right to defend itself after Hamas’s attacks last October, while simultaneously urging Israel to do more to protect civilians and allow aid into Gaza.

In an interview last weekend with MSNBC, Biden said he thought Netanyahu was “hurting Israel more than helping.”

“What’s happening is he has a right to defend Israel, a right to continue to pursue Hamas,” Biden told MSNBC’s Jonathan Capehart. “But he must, he must, he must pay more attention to the innocent lives being lost as a consequence of the actions taken.”

Biden was caught on a hot mic after his State of the Union address on March 7 telling Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) that he planned to have a “come-to-Jesus meeting” with Netanyahu.

Democrats, and progressives in particular, have been increasingly outspoken about their concerns with Netanyahu’s government as thousands of Palestinians have been killed in fighting in Gaza and limited humanitarian aid has gotten into the area.

But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) further increased the pressure on Netanyahu, saying in remarks from the chamber floor that the prime minister had “lost his way,” pointing to the political and legal battles he has faced recently while also allowing that the off-and-on prime minister’s “highest priority is the security of Israel.”

“As a lifelong supporter of Israel, it has become clear to me: The Netanyahu coalition no longer fits the needs of Israel after Oct. 7,” Schumer said, referring to Hamas’s attack. “The world has changed — radically — since then, and the Israeli people are being stifled right now by a governing vision that is stuck in the past.”

Schumer’s remarks elicited backlash from Republicans in particular, some of whom argued it was inappropriate for the senator to call for elections and changes in leadership in another democratic government.

Biden later called it a “good speech,” while Netanyahu called Schumer’s remarks “totally inappropriate.”

The White House has pressed for a temporary cease-fire that would allow hostages to get out of the region and humanitarian aid to get into Gaza, but officials have rebuffed calls for a permanent cease-fire, arguing it would allow Hamas to regroup.

Updated at 2:25 p.m.

Source: The Hill

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