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Biden Says Netanyahu Making “Big Mistake” But Refuses to Cut Off Military Aid

Biden told MSNBC the war is “contrary to what Israel stands for” but he has “no red line” for continuing to supply arms.

U.S. President Joe Biden (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meet in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 18, 2023.

President Joe Biden said Saturday that Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not handling the situation in Gaza the way it should be, but said U.S. support for its ally will remain.

Following the State of the Union address on Thursday, Biden was caught on a hot mic telling Democratic lawmakers that he had privately told Netanyahu that “you and I are going to have a ‘Come-to-Jesus’ meeting,” suggesting a crossroad when it comes to the U.S. president’s so far unconditional support for the Israeli prime minister and his government’s policies.

Asked about the comment on Saturday during an interview with MSNBC, Biden said the death toll in Gaza — which he placed at 30,000 people, the approximate current figure used by the health ministry in Gaza — is “contrary to what Israel stands for. And I think is a big mistake.”

Kenneth Roth, former executive director of Human Rights Watch and now a visiting professor at Princeton University, took on Sunday issue with Biden’s remarks, even as they reflected a much more critical stance.

“Biden said the death toll in Gaza is ‘contrary to what Israel stands for,'” said Roth. “But Israel is imposing it deliberately, just as it imposes apartheid and the expansion of war-crime settlements. Maybe it’s time to admit that that is what Israel stands for.”

Biden said Netanyahu is “hurting Israel more than helping Israel” by the way he continues to conduct the assault on Gaza, and said that he wants “to see a cease-fire” so that a “major, major” prisoner exchange can take place with an initial six-week period in which fighting is stopped and noted the started of the holy month of Ramadan that begins next week.

Biden further called the looming threat to invade Rafah, where an estimated 1.5 million Palestinians with nowhere else to go have sought shelter and safety, a “red line” that he does not want Israel to cross, but added that he would “never leave Israel” or stop supporting what he called the nation’s right to defend itself.

“The defense of Israel is still critical, so there’s no red line I’m going to cut off all weapons so they don’t have the Iron Dome to protect them,” Biden said.

On Friday, the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights warned the “already catastrophic” situation in Gaza would “slide deeper into the abyss” if Israel carried out its promised attack on Rafah.

“Any ground assault on Rafah would incur massive loss of life and would heighten the risk of further atrocity crimes,” said the Commission’s spokesperson Jeremy Laurence. “This must not be allowed to happen.”

During his interview with MSNBC, Biden downplayed those in Democratic primaries over recent weeks who have voted “uncommitted” to voice their disapproval of his unrelenting backing of Israel as it carries out what experts and critics have said is a clear case of genocide in Gaza.

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