Biden Warns Israel Against Being “Consumed” By Rage—But Declines to Call For Ceasefire
President Joe Biden wrapped his visit to Israel on Wednesday with a show of support for the United States ally—along with a measured warning for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to de-escalate as his government forces lay siege to Gaza. “Justice must be done,” the president, calling the October 7 Hamas sneak attack “Israel’s 9/11.” “But I caution this: While you feel that rage, don’t be consumed by it.”
“You are a Jewish state, but you’re also a democracy,” Biden added. “And like the United States, you don’t live by the rules of terrorists. You live by the rule of law.”
The remarks came as Israeli forces bombard Gaza ahead of a possible ground invasion—and a day after a deadly blast at a Gaza hospital that has been point of dispute. Israel has denied responsibility, and Biden, during his visit, said that “it appears the result of an errant rocket fired by a terrorist group in Gaza.” Hamas officials, for their part, have insisted that the Israeli military was responsible for the attack.
The president has tried to walk a fine line between his steadfast support for Israel in the wake of tragedy and concerns about Netanyahu’s military response, which has now resulted in, according to Palestinian health officials. “I think it’d be a big mistake” for Israeli forces to occupy Gaza, Biden said on 60 Minutes Sunday, as his administration pressed Netanyahu to allow aid into the embattled strip. His remarks in solidarity with Palestinian civilians Wednesday went a touch further—and came with a promise of $100 million in American aid to Gaza. “Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people,” he said Wednesday.
But while the president explicitly warned Israel against repeating the US “mistakes” after 9/11, his tempered remarks didn’t go far enough: Not only did he decline to call for a ceasefire, as a growing number in his party are demanding; the US alsoa United Nations Security Council resolution seeking a “humanitarian pause” in Gaza. Biden came to Israel with “tough questions” for his counterparts, the National Security Council’s John Kirby on Air Force One Wednesday. But this crisis, which the World Health Organization Wednesday is “spiraling out of control” in Gaza, calls for a lot less contemplation and a lot more action.