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14 Jan, 2024 17:39

Netanyahu ‘giving Biden the finger’ – Axios

The White House is pushing the Israeli leader to commit to a plan for post-war Gaza, seemingly to no avail
Netanyahu ‘giving Biden the finger’ – Axios

US President Joe Biden is growing frustrated with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s constant snubbing of Washington’s requests, Axios reported on Sunday. “Netanyahu has given Biden the finger” repeatedly, one Democratic lawmaker told the news site.

The two have not spoken since December 23, when Biden unsuccessfully attempted to pressure the Israeli PM into releasing tax revenue withheld from the Palestinian Authority (PA). These funds are vital to the functioning of the West Bank’s government and, even though Netanyahu’s own defense ministry has reportedly warned that failure to transfer them to the PA will lead to violence and unrest, Netanyahu has sided with hardliners within his cabinet who oppose the transfer. 

“The situation sucks and we are stuck. The president’s patience is running out,” an anonymous US official told Axios. “At every juncture, Netanyahu has given Biden the finger,” Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen added, declaring that the Biden administration is “pleading with the Netanyahu coalition, but getting slapped in the face over and over again.”

Securing the flow of funding to the PA is a key American priority, as the US State Department has called for the authority to replace Hamas in governing Gaza once Israel’s military operation in the enclave ends. However, the premier has been vague when discussing plans for a post-war Gaza, and US officials are “frustrated by Netanyahu’s unwillingness to seriously discuss” the future of the strip, Axios claimed. 

Adding to their frustration is his refusal to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza, and the likelihood that Israel will not meet a US-imposed timeline to transition to a “lower intensity phase” of fighting there by mid-January. While White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan urged Netanyahu last month to follow this timeline, Israel Defense Forces spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said earlier this month that his forces are prepared for “lengthy fighting,” while Netanyahu declared on Saturday that “we will not stop until we achieve victory.”

During his first trip to Israel after Hamas’ October 7 attack, Biden pledged that “as long as the United States stands,” Israel would be given the weapons it needs “to protect its people.” His administration has made good on that promise, rushing arms and ammunition to West Jerusalem while dismissing allegations that Israel is using them to commit genocide. 

However, Biden is up for reelection in November, and his steadfast support for Israel has caused a rift within his own party. Several of his officials have resigned in protest, multiple Democratic lawmakers have condemned Israel’s actions in Gaza as “genocide,” and pro-Palestinian leftists have disrupted Biden’s speeches and picketed the White House. 

Hamas militants launched a surprise attack on Israel on October 7, killing around 1,200 people. Israeli forces responded by launching airstrikes on Gaza, followed by a ground incursion into the Palestinian enclave a month later. The operation is ongoing and has claimed the lives of nearly 24,000 Palestinians, more than two-thirds of whom have been women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.