Netanyahu and Biden finally speak for the first time since the president’s ‘exaggerated’ criticism

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with President Biden on Sunday for the first time since the American leader called Israel’s war against Hamas “overblown,” and as Israel prepares for its controversial ground invasion of Rafah.

The 45-minute phone call came after Netanyahu told “Fox News Sunday” that he had not spoken to his supposedly close ally since Thursday, when Biden openly criticized the prime minister’s war campaign against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. and Bibi defiantly added that the United States would be much worse off under similar circumstances.

“I don’t know exactly what he meant by that,” Netanyahu said of Biden’s words last week: “I am of the opinion that the conduct of the response in the Gaza Strip has been exaggerated.

“Look, we were attacked in the worst attack against the Jewish people since the Holocaust,” Netanyahu said. “That October 7 massacre was equivalent to 20 9/11 attacks in one day and the equivalent of 50,000 Americans massacred, burned, mutilated, raped, beheaded and 10,000 Americans taken hostage, including mothers and children.

“So what would be the United States’ response? I would say it would be at least as strong as Israel, and many Americans tell me, “We would have crushed them.” We would have turned them into dust,’” Netanyahu added.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that the United States would have responded much harsher than Israel against Hamas under the same circumstances. FOX

The two leaders finally spoke again on Sunday afternoon to discuss Israel’s war effort and the need to free hostages held by Hamas, with Biden specifically urging the Jewish nation to mitigate civilian casualties in Gaza as it continues to try to destroy the terrorist network, according to the White House.

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The president warned Israel not to advance toward the southern Gaza city of Rafah “without a credible and executable plan to ensure security and support for the more than one million people taking refuge there.”

Around 1.4 million refugees are now in Rafah after fleeing the war that has consumed almost the entire Gaza Strip, with civilians now positioned between the border and the invading battle between the Israel Defense Forces and Hamas. .

The United States has condemned the imminent Israeli invasion of Rafah, now Gaza’s most populous city where more than a million refugees have fled during the war. AP Although he publicly supports Israel’s war against Hamas, sources say Biden has grown tired of Netanyahu and no longer considers him a productive ally. Via REUTERS

Given that Sunday’s phone call ended with Biden and Netanyahu agreeing to “remain in close contact,” it appears the two leaders may have patched up the recent rift that formed after Biden’s criticism of the war on Thursday.

Netanyahu justified to Fox the IDF advance through Gaza as a necessary action to eliminate Hamas and prevent another October 7, where more than 1,200 people were brutally murdered in Israel by terrorists, thus launching the war.

While Biden initially showed strong support for Israel in Gaza, the president has become more critical after reports highlighting the war’s civilian casualties.

Biden has repeatedly expressed concern about civilian casualties in Gaza, whose death toll now exceeds 28,000. AP

The death toll in the Palestinian enclave has surpassed 28,000, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and terrorists. By the end of January, the United States estimated that only about 9,000 Hamas terrorists had been killed.

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In addition to the death toll, Biden and Netanyahu have clashed over the future of Gaza once the war ends, with reports claiming the president abruptly hung up the phone during a heated call that marked a pause in talks for weeks.

Although Biden keeps much of his criticism of Netanyahu behind closed doors, his top advisers have urged him to be more public about his problems with the Israeli leader, sources familiar with their private conversations told the Washington Post.

An explosion is seen in southern Gaza on Sunday as the IDF prepares to invade one of its southernmost cities. AP

“I don’t think anyone can look at what the Israelis have done in Gaza and not say it’s overblown,” one senior official said of Biden’s supposedly prolonged criticism.

“This comes to the frustration of Israelis. Have they done the work on what comes next in Gaza? No. They haven’t addressed the really difficult questions.”

An outside White House adviser said of the impending Israeli invasion of Rafah, where refugees from other parts of war-torn Gaza have fled: “They are already living in tents and not getting enough food or water, and you say : go away”. somewhere else?

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“Where? How are they supposed to get there?”

Biden’s patience is also reportedly being tested as he watches his political points fall among young Democrats over his strong support for Israel, while Netanyahu undermines the work of US officials trying to push for peace in the Gaza war, they added. the sources.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Netanyahu last week to discuss Hamas’ response to the draft peace deal. The Israeli prime minister ended up outright rejecting the plan, calling it “illusory,” despite Blinken’s comments that it could still be saved.

As war consumes the entire Gaza Strip, nearly its entire population has fled south and is now trapped between the border and the approaching Israeli army. AP

As the United States, Qatar and Egypt work to mediate a truce to help free the more than 130 Israeli hostages remaining in Gaza, Netanyahu reiterated Sunday that the only way to free the captives and end the war would be through military power.

“Victory is within our reach,” Netanyahu said. “We have already destroyed three quarters of Hamas’s organized terrorist battalions. Three quarters, 18 of 24; We are not going to leave the other six.”

He also rejected the idea of ​​a two-state Palestinian-Israeli solution, which has been promoted by Biden and European leaders.

Palestinians walk through the rubble left by an Israeli airstrike in Rafah. AP

“I don’t think a two-state solution is possible, and even if it were possible, it is not advisable,” Netanyahu said. “For more than 50 years, hundreds of self-proclaimed ‘peacemakers,’ led by the United States, have attempted to coerce Israel and the Palestinians into adopting a two-state solution.

“Efforts repeatedly fail regardless of who is in charge,” he added.

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