Biden: ‘every reason’ to believe Netanyahu is prolonging Gaza war for political gain

Joe Biden has said that there is “every reason” to draw the conclusion that Benjamin Netanyahu is prolonging the war in Gaza for his own political self-preservation.

Biden made the remarks about the Israeli prime minister in an interview with Time magazine published on Tuesday morning, drawing a sharp response from the Israeli government, which accused the US president of straying from diplomatic norms.

Netanyahu’s popularity plummeted after the 7 October attack by Hamas, which exposed serious flaws in Israeli security. Most political observers say Netanyahu would lose elections if they were held now, and would be forced into opposition, facing court hearings on corruption charges. But elections have been put off until the war is over, or at least until major military operations are deemed to have been completed.

Time asked Biden whether he believed Netanyahu was “prolonging the war for his own political self-preservation”.

“I’m not going to comment on that,” the president said in response, but added: “There is every reason for people to draw that conclusion.”

He went to discuss some of the internal political problems Netanyahu was facing before the war.

Asked if he wanted to clarify Biden’s response, the US national security council spokesperson, John Kirby, said: “I think the president was very clear in his answer on that, and we’ll let the prime minister speak to his own politics. The president was referencing what many critics have said.”

In response, the Israeli government spokesperson, David Mencer, said Biden’s remarks about Netanyahu and Israeli politics were “outside the diplomatic norms of every right-thinking country”.

Over the course of a wide-ranging interview, Biden was also asked about the allegations, under investigation by the international criminal court (ICC) and the international court of justice (ICJ), that Israel is committing war crimes in Gaza. The president gave an ambivalent response.

“The answer is it’s uncertain and has been investigated by the Israelis themselves,” he said. “The ICC is something that we don’t recognise. But one thing is certain: the people in Gaza, the Palestinians, have suffered greatly, for lack of food, water, medicine, etc. And a lot of innocent people have been killed.”

Biden pointed out that Hamas also held responsibility for the bloodshed in Israel and Gaza.

Asked specifically if Israel was using “starvation of civilians as a method of warfare”, a charge being pursued by the ICC prosecutor, Karim Khan.

“No, I don’t think that,” Biden said. But he then said: “I think they’ve engaged in activity that is inappropriate.”

Biden said that when he visited Israel in the wake of the 7 October attack, he told Netanyahu’s government: “Don’t make the same mistake we did going after [Osama] bin Laden. The idea of occupying Afghanistan, the idea that you had nuclear arsenals in Iraq, that were … simply not true. And it led to endless wars. Don’t make the mistakes we made.”

But Biden concluded by saying the Israelis were indeed “making that mistake”.

The Guardian

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