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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Biden informs Israel that future US military aid hinges on increased civilian protection measures

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WASHINGTON — In​ a significant shift in stance, President‍ Joe Biden communicated a stern message ‍to⁣ Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday. He emphasized that the future U.S. support for Israel’s ‍Gaza war is contingent ‌on the immediate implementation of new measures to safeguard civilians and aid workers.

The approximately 30-minute call between Biden and Netanyahu, which‌ took place just days after Israeli‍ airstrikes resulted in the ⁢death of seven food aid ⁣workers ‌in Gaza,⁤ has added another layer of complexity to ‍the already tense relationship between the two leaders. This marks a ​significant departure from Biden’s‍ administration’s unwavering support for ⁤Israel’s war​ efforts, with the U.S. President for the first time suggesting a potential reconsideration ⁢of his support if Israel does not modify its tactics ⁣and allow a substantial increase in humanitarian aid into Gaza.

While the ‍White House did not provide specific details on what aspects of U.S. policy could change, it⁢ hinted at ‌potential alterations in military sales ‌to Israel and America’s diplomatic support on the global stage. Administration officials expressed their expectation for the Israelis to announce their next steps within a few hours or days, after which the U.S. would evaluate whether these actions are sufficient.

According to a statement released by the White House following​ the leaders’ call, Biden “underscored the necessity for Israel to announce and implement ⁤a series of specific, ⁣concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid ‍workers.” He further clarified that⁤ “U.S. policy with respect to⁤ Gaza will be determined ⁢by our assessment ⁣of Israel’s immediate action on these steps.”

Biden also conveyed to Netanyahu that ⁤an “immediate cease-fire is essential”‌ and encouraged Israel to achieve such an agreement “without delay.” The White House described the conversation as ‍”direct” and “honest.”

The Israeli government has not ‌yet responded to the call.

‘Policy changes are inevitable’

The leaders’ discussion comes in the wake of the World Central Kitchen, ‌a food relief organization founded by restaurateur José Andrés, demanding ⁣an independent investigation into the Israeli strikes that resulted in the death of the group’s staff members, including an ‍American citizen.

The White House has stated that the U.S. has no plans‌ to conduct its own investigation, but it has ⁢urged⁤ Israel to take ​more⁢ action to prevent harm to innocent civilians⁣ and aid ‌workers during its operations in Gaza.

Meanwhile, Secretary of⁢ State Antony Blinken, speaking to ‍reporters in Brussels, warned that U.S. support would be reduced if Israel does not⁣ make significant changes to its war strategy. ⁣”If we don’t see the changes that we need to ⁣see, there will be changes in our ⁢policy,” he said.

White House national security spokesman John ⁢Kirby reiterated the call for “tangible” and “concrete” changes by the Israelis, beyond⁢ just allowing additional‌ aid into Gaza. ​”If there’s no changes to their⁤ policy in their approaches, then ‌there’s going to have to be changes to ours,” Kirby said. “There are ⁢things that ⁣need to be done. ⁣There are too many civilians being killed.”

‘Retaliation ‍is inevitable’

Demands for Israel to quickly end the conflict are⁤ increasing across the political spectrum.⁢ Former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee to face Biden this fall, stated on ⁤Thursday that Israel⁤ was⁢ “absolutely ⁢losing the PR war” and called for a resolution to the bloodshed.

“Get it ‌over with and let’s⁣ get back to⁢ peace⁢ and stop killing people. And that’s a very simple ⁣statement,” Trump told conservative radio host ​Hugh Hewitt. “They have to get it done. Get it over with and get‍ it over with fast because we have to — you have to​ get back to normalcy and peace.”

During their‌ conversation, Biden and Netanyahu also‌ discussed threats⁢ from ⁣Iran, according to Kirby. Earlier this week, Iranian leaders pledged to retaliate after an airstrike, widely attributed to​ Israel, destroyed Iran’s Consulate in Syria, killing‍ 12 people, including two elite Iranian generals. Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi stated on Wednesday that the attack “will not ‍remain⁢ without answer.”

Biden also ⁤expressed‌ his concerns about ‍Netanyahu’s plan to conduct an operation in‌ the southern city of ‍Rafah, where approximately 1.5 million displaced Palestinians are taking shelter, as Israel aims to eliminate‌ Hamas following the militant group’s⁣ deadly attack on Oct. 7. Vice President Kamala‌ Harris, Blinken, and national security adviser Jake⁢ Sullivan⁤ also participated in the call.

Most lethal in ⁤recent history

Despite the escalating tensions, the Biden administration has continued with arms transfers and deliveries to Israel, many of which were approved years ago but had ⁤only been partially or not at all fulfilled. Just this week,⁤ on Monday, the Democratic administration’s “Daily List” ‌of munitions transfers included the sale to⁤ Israel of more than 1,000 500-pound bombs and more than 1,000 1,000-pound bombs.

Officials​ clarified that these transfers had been approved before⁢ the publication of the list on Monday — the day Israeli airstrikes hit ​a World Central Kitchen aid ​convoy in⁢ Gaza, killing ⁢seven⁤ of the group’s employees — and that they fell below the threshold for ​new congressional ‍notification. They also noted that the bombs are not scheduled for delivery to Israel until 2025.

The war in Gaza was triggered when Hamas-led militants invaded southern Israel, resulting in ‌the death of approximately 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and the taking of around 250 people hostage.

Experts suggest that the⁢ Israeli military campaign in Gaza is among​ the deadliest and most destructive in recent history. Within two months, researchers claim, the offensive has caused more destruction than the razing of Syria’s Aleppo between 2012 and 2016, Ukraine’s Mariupol, or, proportionally, the Allied bombing of‌ Germany in World War⁣ II. It has ​resulted in more civilian deaths than the U.S.-led coalition did ⁢in its three-year campaign​ against the Islamic State group.

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