Biden’s toughest criticism yet of Netanyahu is in danger of ringing hollow

Joe Biden has issued his toughest criticism yet of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – but until he backs his words with firm action, they are in danger of ringing hollow.

The US president is accusing Netanyahu of “hurting Israel more than helping it” – criticism that adds to more colourful comments he’s said to have used in private.

But critics say it is still just talk and Israel is not listening.

Middle East latest: Biden warns Rafah invasion is ‘red line’

Pic: Reuters
Benjamin Netanyahu. Pic: Reuters

Its government is still talking about taking its military offensive into Rafah and it has announced plans for thousands more settler homes in the occupied West Bank against most interpretations of international law, inflaming passions at a critical juncture in this war.

“He has a right to defend Israel,” Biden said this weekend of Netanyahu’s policy in Gaza, adding he has “a right to continue to pursue Hamas, but he must… pay more attention to the innocent lives being lost”.

Netanyahu’s policy in Gaza, he says, is “contrary to what Israel stands for. I think it’s a big mistake and I want to see a ceasefire”.

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But unlike previous American presidents, Biden is refusing to take action to reinforce that rhetoric and force his wayward ally to conform.

Ronald Reagan had no such compunction at moments of disagreement with Israel, suspending the delivery of fighter jets and letting 21 UN resolutions pass that were critical of Israel during his time in office.

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Netanyahu ‘needs come to Jesus meeting’

George Bush Sr allowed the denial of aid to Israel to be used as diplomatic pressure and also allowed measures perceived as anti-Israeli to pass at the UN.

Joe Biden may have severe misgivings about Israel’s offensive in Gaza but he will not let a single UN resolution pass that censures it.

And he continues to approve the supply of substantial amounts of US weaponry to bolster that very same offensive, in the teeth of growing opposition from members of his own party on Capitol Hill.

The action he has approved is regarded as token and even counterproductive by many.

Dropping aid from the air may produce good optics for a president desperately worried about American-Arab support haemorrhaging in an election year, but it has reportedly now killed a number of Palestinians – though the Pentagon denies this.

The aid is also inadequate.

President Biden at a campaign event in Atlanta. Pic: Reuters
President Biden at a campaign event in Atlanta. Pic: Reuters

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The West has lost patience with Israel over aid into Gaza

Biden’s order to build a ‘pier’ to bring in more aid is also seen by Palestinians as cosmetic and too little too late.

It will take at least two months, we are told, when 93% of Gazans are suffering hunger at crisis levels right now.

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The twin measures also take the pressure off Israel when it has undeniable obligations itself to guarantee the humanitarian needs of the people whose land it is currently occupying.

That is why allies like the UK’s foreign secretary Lord Cameron insist on Israel doing more.

Opening up the Erez Crossing in the north of Gaza and allowing aid to land at the ports of Ashdod and Ashkelon a few miles away seems the obvious next step.

If Joe Biden truly believes Benjamin Netanyahu is doing more harm than good to Israel, his critics say he still needs to show what he means to do about it.

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