107338053 1700673878290 Gettyimages 1730515132 Afp 33yg2uq.jpeg

Biden Suggests U.S. Could Condition Military Aid to Israel on Its Actions to Address Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza

US President Joe Biden (L) meets with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. US President Joe Biden landed in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023 as Middle East anger flared after hundreds were killed when a rocket struck a hospital in war-torn Gaza, with Israel and the Palestinians quick to trade blame. (

Brendan Smialowski | Getty Images

President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday that Israel’s strike that killed seven World Central Kitchen aid workers earlier this week and the overall humanitarian situation were “unacceptable” and issued a warning about the U.S. changing its policy toward Israel.

Biden “made clear the need 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,” the White House said in a readout of the call.

Notably, Biden also “made clear that U.S. policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel’s immediate action on these steps.”

According to two U.S. officials, Biden strongly implied to Netanyahu that he could condition U.S. military aid to Israel on what it does to address humanitarian concerns in Gaza and get to a ceasefire as soon as possible.

“That was the message,” one of the officials said.

Asked to elaborate on what that could amount to, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters at the press briefing that he wouldn’t preview specific steps that the U.S. might take.

“What we are looking to see and hope to see here in the coming hours and days is a dramatic increase in the humanitarian assistance getting [into Gaza], additional crossings opened up and a reduction in the violence against civilians and certainly aid workers,” Kirby said, adding that they want to see Israel “take practical immediate steps to protect aid workers on the ground and to demonstrate that they have that civilian harm mitigation in place.”

Kirby was pressed repeatedly about whether the U.S. could withhold military aid to Israel and said he wouldn’t get ahead of any decisions.

Bodies of foreign employees of the US-based international volunteer aid organization World Central Kitchen (WCK), who were killed after an Israeli attack on a vehicle belonging to WCK, are taken to En-Neccar Hospital in Rafah city, Gaza on April 03, 2024. 

Yasser Qudaih | Anadolu | Getty Images

“There are too many civilians being killed,” Kirby said. “The risk to aid workers is unacceptable. Now we have certain aid organizations that are reconsidering whether they’re even going to be able to continue operations in Gaza, while famine looms, so there has to be tangible steps. Let’s see what they announce, let’s see what they direct, let’s see what they do.”

Two U.S. officials said Biden told Netanyahu to immediately begin letting more trucks carrying humanitarian aid into Gaza and to be less stringent about what materials are on them.

Biden also shifted his stance on a ceasefire in Gaza during the call, telling the prime minister he must agree to one, and that the easiest way to achieve that is a deal that would implement a ceasefire in exchange for the release of hostages by Hamas, the officials said. If Netanyahu does not agree to a ceasefire, the president made clear that U.S. relations with Israel would significantly change, the officials said. 

The White House readout said the president told Netanyahu that “an immediate ceasefire is essential to stabilize and improve the humanitarian situation and protect innocent civilians.” Biden told Netanyahu to “empower” his negotiators to reach a deal that would include a return of the hostages being held in Gaza.

“The two leaders also discussed public Iranian threats against Israel and the Israeli people,” the White House added. “President Biden made clear that the United States strongly supports Israel in the face of those threats.”

This moment, after Israel’s killing of seven aid workers for World Central Kitchen, one of the U.S. officials said, “is an inflection point in this war.”

The call lasted for about 30 minutes, according to a senior Biden administration official.

A U.S. official said ahead of the call that Biden intended to convey his anger over the incident to Netanyahu during their conversation.

Palestinians are walking in front of the closed headquarters of the World Central Kitchen two days after a convoy of the NGO was hit in an Israeli strike while battles continue between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, west of Nuseirat, central Gaza Strip, on April 3, as Israel faces a chorus of outrage over their deaths. 

Majdi Fathi | Nurphoto | Getty Images

The call between the leaders was arranged after the strike occurred, a separate U.S. official said, describing Biden as being “very angry” about the incident.

The president’s anger is “indicative of the broader problem of how the Israelis are conducting their operations,” for “either not passing on to their military the deconfliction details from World Central Kitchen, or they’re being received and ignored,” the official said.

Vice President Kamala Harris, who was traveling to North Carolina on Thursday, also listened to the call.

The seven workers killed in the strike on Monday included a dual U.S.-Canada citizen, according to chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen. Biden called Andrés “to express that he’s heartbroken” over their deaths, the White House said on Tuesday.

Israel said it didn’t intend to target and kill the humanitarian aid workers, but the charity said that its team had coordinated its movements with the Israel Defense Forces and that they were traveling in a “deconflicted zone” in vehicles that included two armored cars branded with the World Central Kitchen logo.

After the attack, the nonprofit organization said it was immediately pausing operations in the region.

Biden and Netanyahu last spoke by phone on March 18. In that call, Biden warned the Israeli leader against authorizing a military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Bodies of foreign employees of the US-based international volunteer aid organization World Central Kitchen (WCK), who were killed after an Israeli attack on a vehicle belonging to WCK, are taken to El-Nejar Hospital in Rafah city, Gaza on April 03, 2024.

Abed Rahim Khatib | Anadolu | Getty Images

Top U.S. and Israeli officials held a virtual meeting Monday to discuss Israel’s plans for a possible ground invasion of the city, which grew contentious after the Americans pushed back on Israel’s proposal to evacuate Palestinian civilians sheltering there, two U.S. officials and one former U.S. official familiar with the meeting said.

Israel proposed moving 1.4 million civilians from Rafah into tents north of the city, but the plan didn’t include addressing sanitation, food and water needs or sourcing for most of the tents, the officials said.

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., a close Biden ally, came out for the first time Thursday in support of putting conditions on U.S. military aid to Israel if it decides to go into Rafah without making provisions to protect civilians or provide humanitarian aid. “I think we’re at that point,” he said in an interview on CNN.

In a statement Thursday, Sen. Peter Welch, D-Vt., said the U.S. should stop funding Israel’s military operation in Gaza.

The Biden administration “has a responsibility to stop financing the Netanyahu government’s strategy, which has so disproportionately killed civilians, aid workers, and medical personnel, used food as a weapon, and that has no vision to establish a viable, independent Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel,” he said.

Meanwhile, Biden met with members of the Muslim community at the White House on Tuesday. One of the participants, Salima Suswell, the founder of the Black Muslim Leadership Council, told NBC News that the president told the group that first lady Jill Biden has been privately urging him to end the war between Israel and Hamas.

Biden made the remark after a doctor who had been treating injured people in Gaza told the president that his wife didn’t want him to join the meeting. Biden shared that he could relate and that the first lady had told him, “Stop it, stop it now,” Suswell said. The New York Times first reported the comments.

Source link

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *