President Biden has expressed growing frustrations behind closed doors over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his refusal to scale back Israel’s military ambitions in Gaza, according to an NBC News report.
Biden, in private conversations, has said Netanyahu is “giving him hell” as the White House seeks to broker a cease-fire with the Palestinian militant group Hamas and negotiate a longer-term plan for peace in the Gaza Strip, NBC News reported Monday, citing five people “directly familiar” with the president’s comments.
Biden reportedly said Netanyahu is impossible to work with and called the Israeli leader an “a‑‑hole” on at least three occasions, according to three of the people who asked they not be named in the report.
Despite the private frustration, the White House has generally offered steadfast support for Israel, a longtime ally of the U.S., following Hamas’s Oct. 7 surprise assault that killed about 1,200 people, including hundreds of civilians. Hamas is recognized as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007.
Biden and other White House officials, however, have upped calls on Israel in recent weeks to be more cautious about killing civilians in its bombardment of Gaza. The Palestinian death toll in the enclave reached more than 28,000 since early October, including both civilians and Hamas fighters, per The Associated Press, citing the Health Ministry in Gaza.
Biden last week offered some of his harshest remarks about Israel’s military operation in Gaza, telling reporters the “conduct of the response in [the] Gaza Strip has been over the top.”
The president, however, has yet to publicly express any significant shift in U.S. policy when it comes to the war.
People familiar with the matter said Biden told people in private that it would be counterproductive to be too harsh on Netanyahu’s policies, NBC News reported.
The Hill reached out to the White House and National Security Council (NSC) for comment on the report.
Asked by NBC News about these private comments, a spokesperson for the security council said, “The president has been clear where he disagrees with Prime Minister Netanyahu, but this is a decades-long relationship that is respectful in public and in private.”
Netanyahu has repeatedly defended Israel’s response in Gaza and has largely dismissed calls for a cease-fire, even as domestic pressure grows for Israel to negotiate the return of more than 100 hostages still held by Hamas.
Despite U.S. warnings against expanding military operations, Israel ordered evacuations of Rafah last week in anticipation of an invasion of the densely populated city, where one of Gaza’s largest refugee camps is located for Palestinians fleeing the war. Strikes in Rafah killed at least 31 Palestinians over the weekend.
The White House said Biden spoke with Netanyahu Sunday morning and told the Israeli leader the military operation in Rafah “should not proceed without a credible and executable plan for ensuring the safety of and support for the more than one million people sheltering there.”
On that same call, Biden reaffirmed the White House’s “shared goal” to see the threat of Hamas eliminated and emphasized the need to “capitalize on progress” made during negotiations for the release of the remaining hostages, the White House said.