Inside President Biden's Direct Conversation with Benjamin Netanyahu


President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just had a pivotal conversation in which the former stressed the urgent need for action on humanitarian aid access in Gaza. Biden underlined during the talk the need of expanding supplies through Kerem Shalom and opening the Erez crossing and the port of Ashdod for assistance distribution.
"Joe, we're committed to doing it," Netanyahu told Biden, as per a source familiar with the conversation. But Biden asked that the prime minister declare these actions that same evening.

The procedures described to enable more humanitarian aid delivery to Gaza were quickly authorized by Israel's security cabinet after the call.

Biden's posture has clearly changed as seen by this conversation between the two leaders, who has for the first time since Hamas' attack in October threatened dire consequences if Israel does not make significant improvements in Gazan conditions. Even if he firmly believed in Israel's right to self-defense, Biden cautioned Netanyahu that if the situation in the civilian population did not improve, the US might change its mind.

Though it's clear that possible policy adjustments are being thought about, one of which being a possible pause in US weapons supply to Israel, both the White House and Netanyahu's office declined to comment on the specifics of the talk. Decisions haven't been taken definitively yet, though.



Notwithstanding these discussions, the US is still supporting Israel militarily; plans call for the sale of fighter jets valued at $18 billion, and bomb deliveries have recently been approved. These acts have generated discussion; some have questioned the coherence of US strategy.

Going forward, the Biden administration will keep a close eye on Israel's attempts to ease the humanitarian situation in Gaza during the month. It is yet unclear, though, what criteria Israel's commitment would be assessed against.

Biden called Netanyahu after the recent IDF strike that claimed the lives of seven employees of World Central Kitchen, underscoring mounting worries about Israel's tactical strategies. Even if the Israeli government has formally opened an inquiry into the matter, the White House is not calling Biden's requests ultimatums.

 Both leaders are up against difficulties as pressure from home and abroad grows. Since October, Biden has lost support in important constituencies, and Netanyahu's political future is in jeopardy.

Highlighting the complexity of their long-standing cooperation, Biden hinted at an approaching reckoning in his relationship with Netanyahu in an open exchange caught on camera.
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