Politics

Biden speaks with Netanyahu as US-Israel tensions escalate over direction of Hamas war

President Biden spoke Monday morning with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as tensions between the U.S. and Israel are escalating over the direction of the war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. 

The call between the two leaders, which was the first since Feb. 15, came after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer delivered a speech Thursday calling for Netanyahu’s ouster and labeling him an ‘obstacle to peace.’ The next day, Biden described Schumer’s remarks as a ‘good speech’ that ‘expressed serious concern shared not only by him, but by many Americans.’ 

‘President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to discuss the latest developments in Israel and Gaza, including the situation in Rafah and efforts to surge humanitarian assistance to Gaza,’ the White House Press Office said Monday.

Netanyahu had issued a sharp rebuttal to Schumer on Sunday, saying during an interview on ‘Fox & Friends Weekend’ that his comments on the Senate floor were ‘wholly inappropriate.’ 

‘I think we’re not a banana republic. The people of Israel will choose when they’ll have elections, who they elect, and it’s not something that will be foisted upon us,’ Netanyahu added. 

The majority leader had said he believed that ‘Prime Minister Netanyahu has lost his way by allowing his political survival to take the precedence over the best interests of Israel.’ 

‘It’s wrong to try to replace the elected leaders of a sister democracy and a staunch American ally at any time, but especially during the time of war,’ Netanyahu countered. 

White House national security communications adviser John Kirby brushed off questioning Sunday regarding whether Biden believes Netanyahu is an ‘impediment to peace,’ saying the two world leaders have ‘known each other a long time’ and have an open line of communication. 

‘Does the president think that Benjamin Netanyahu is a bigot? That he’s an impediment to peace? That he should be lumped in with Hamas?’ Fox News’ Shannon Bream asked Kirby on ‘Fox News Sunday.’ 

Kirby did not explicitly answer, instead highlighting that the two world leaders have long known each other and that the U.S. respects Israel’s sovereignty.  

‘These are two men, leaders that have known each other a long time, Shannon, and they don’t agree on everything – haven’t over 40 years. And there are certain aspects to the prosecution of operations in Gaza, where we obviously don’t agree with everything that Israel has done. But they have a relationship where they can talk to one another, and they do, and they will again. He is the prime minister of Israel. We respect the sovereignty of the Israeli people,’ he responded. 

Fox News’ Patrick Ward, Madeline Coggins and Emma Colton contributed to this report. 

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