Biden: Israel’s Netanyahu making ‘mistake’ on Gaza

In strongest criticism yet, Biden takes issue with Israel’s approach but not its devastating war on Gaza.

United States President Joe Biden has said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is making a “mistake” in his handling of the Gaza war and its repercussions inside Israel and internationally.

“I think what he’s doing is a mistake. I don’t agree with his approach,” Biden told Univision, a US-based, Spanish-language television network, in an interview that aired late on Tuesday when asked whether Netanyahu was putting his own political survival before national interests.

Biden also said it was “outrageous” that Israel targeted a convoy of US food charity World Central Kitchen (WCK) in Gaza, killing seven aid workers.

“So what I’m calling for is the Israelis to just call for a ceasefire, allow for the next six, eight weeks, a total access to all food and medicine going into the country,” he said, adding that other countries were ready to help as well.

“I’ve spoken to everyone from the Saudis to the Jordanians to the Egyptians. They’re prepared to move this food in. There’s no excuse to not provide for the medical and food needs of those people. It should be done now.”

Al Jazeera’s White House Correspondent Patty Culhane reported that the interview took place last week, shortly after the WCK aid workers were killed in an Israeli military attack.

Biden was only asked one question on Gaza, Culhane said, if “he thought that … Netanyahu was putting his political survival over the interests of Israel”.

It remains to be seen if Biden’s staff later walk back his remarks on the ceasefire that he called for, Culhane added.

While international pressure is growing for a truce in the six-month war, there has been no progress in weeks of talks with Israeli and Hamas officials as well as international mediators – the US, Egypt and Qatar.

Senior officials in the US administration continue to defend and support the war – while sending weapons to Israel – even as 33,360 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip since October 7.

In testimony before the US Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin again categorically rejected that Israel is perpetrating genocide in the besieged enclave, where famine has set in, children have died of malnutrition and Israeli authorities have continued to block humanitarian aid convoys while carrying out attacks across the territory.

“We don’t have any evidence of genocide being created,” he said.

At a joint news conference in Washington, DC, alongside British Foreign Secretary David Cameron, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the enclave needs more humanitarian assistance.

He said what matters is “sustained results” and that means ensuring aid “is distributed effectively throughout Gaza”.

While Netanyahu announced Israel has decided on a date for its planned ground invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza, Blinken said the US has not been briefed on the decision and that he is expected to meet with Israeli officials next week.

“We do not have a date for any Rafah operation. On the contrary, what we have is an ongoing conversation with Israel. The president has been very clear about our concerns about Israel’s ability to move civilians out of harm’s way,” he said.

Rafah, bordering Egypt, is where about 1.5 million displaced Palestinians are taking shelter. Israel has long threatened an offensive there, but the US has opposed this absent a plan to evacuate Palestinians from the area.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies