Biden-Netanyahu tensions escalate over Gaza, U.S. military aid in question

The growing rift between President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, particularly over the potential for a ground offensive in southern Gaza, has sparked a potential clash between the two leaders. This situation raises questions about the possibility of the U.S. imposing restrictions on military aid to Israel.

Publication: 13.03.2024 - 14:23
Biden-Netanyahu tensions escalate over Gaza, U.S. military aid in question
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Tensions have fueled discussions within the U.S. administration about leveraging its influence to urge Israel to enhance humanitarian efforts in Gaza and minimize Palestinian civilian casualties amid its conflict with Hamas. Despite Netanyahu's defiance and increasing calls from Biden’s Democratic colleagues for action, the president has so far hesitated to leverage U.S. weapons supply, a significant form of influence.

However, Biden's growing frustration might lead to a policy shift, potentially conditioning military aid on Israel's actions in Rafah, Gaza. The complex dynamics of Biden’s 2024 reelection bid add to the challenge, as he navigates between maintaining Republican and pro-Israel voter support and addressing concerns from progressive Democrats unhappy with his staunch support for Israel.

So far, there's no indication of a final decision regarding the imposition of restrictions on weapons supplies to Israel. Biden has stressed the importance of protecting civilians in any Israeli military action in Rafah, where a significant portion of Gaza’s population seeks refuge.

In a recent MSNBC interview, Biden reiterated his support for Israel's defense, including the Iron Dome missile defense system, without making explicit promises about offensive weaponry. This omission fuels speculation about potential conditions on U.S. military aid, which could impact Israel’s security, especially with threats from Hezbollah and Iran.

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan declined to speculate on weapons limitations, describing media reports on Biden’s considerations as “uninformed speculation.”

Netanyahu remains defiant despite Biden’s criticism. He emphasizes the importance of preventing incidents like the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, underscoring Israel’s readiness to face international backlash for its military responses. Israel insists on its efforts to minimize civilian casualties, despite the significant Palestinian death toll reported by Gaza health authorities.

While the U.S. has issued warnings about the need for Israeli restraint, especially after recent Palestinian casualties during an aid distribution, it has started to provide humanitarian aid through airdrops and announced plans for a floating aid dock off Gaza’s coast.

Discussions on limiting military aid to Israel have occurred within the U.S. State Department, though they lack senior leadership support. With the upcoming election, Biden faces a delicate balance in his approach to Netanyahu, with potential implications for U.S.-Israel relations and his own political standing.

The Biden administration’s engagement with Israeli centrist politician Benny Gantz, seen as a potential future leader, reflects a strategic distancing from Netanyahu. This move aligns with Biden's efforts to maintain support among the Israeli public, amidst Netanyahu's declining approval ratings within Israel.

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