Biden calls on Netanyahu to scale back war

Saturday’s phone call came in the wake of a US veto from a Security Council resolution calling increased aid to Gaza but no immediate ceasefire in Israel’s war against Hamas.

By Meir Dolev, World Israel News

President Joe Biden told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call on Saturday that he wished to see a scaling back of Israel’s operation to destroy Hamas in Gaza, but not a complete cessation.

The call, lasting approximately 45 minutes, was characterized by Biden as a “long conversation” but the details of which mostly remain under wraps. The discussion came in the wake of the United States withholding its veto from a United Nations Security Council resolution that called for increased aid to the Strip without demanding an immediate ceasefire in Israel’s war against Hamas.

“I didn’t ask for a ceasefire,” Biden stated.

A White House statement noted that the two leaders “discussed Israel’s military campaign in Gaza to include its objectives and phasing.” It emphasized the critical need to protect civilians and the importance of allowing safe movement away from areas of ongoing fighting.

Netanyahu, in a statement, affirmed Israel’s commitment to continuing the war until all its goals are achieved, including dismantling the Hamas terror group rescuing hostages held in Gaza. He also expressed appreciation for the U.S.’s role in moderating the language of the UN resolution.

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On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized the urgency of ending the war “as quickly as possible,” advocating a shift to more targeted operations.

“It’s clear that this conflict needs to move — will move — to a lower intensity phase,” Blinken said. “We expect to see, and want to see, a shift to more targeted operations, with a smaller number of forces that are really focused on dealing with the leadership of Hamas, the tunnel network and a few other different things.”

“As that happens, you’ll see the harm done to civilians decrease significantly,” he said.

Israel’s extensive military campaign in Gaza has resulted in a high number of casualties. According to Gaza’s health ministry, which is run by the Hamas terror group, over 20,000 people have been killed, a figure that includes both civilians and terrorists. The IDF maintains that a significant proportion of those killed were terrorists.

A breakthrough for a hostage deals remains elusive, with Hamas demanding a ceasefire as a precondition for talks – a condition Israel has rejected.

In Israel, public rallies in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have put additional pressure on Netanyahu, with citizens calling for the release of the hostages and expressing dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of the situation.

In the U.S. too, a majority of Americans disapprove of the way the Biden administration is handling the war in Gaza, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll carried out last week.

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Although the source of the disapproval may differ for Democrats and Republicans and there is a dramatic variation among age groups, the poll showed that 57% of Americans disapprove of Biden’s handling of the war, compared to just 33% who approve.

Three-quarters of voters between 18 and 29 said they disapproved of Biden’s handling of the Gaza war, with the same percentage saying that Israel is not doing enough to avoid civilian casualties and  50% claiming the IDF is targeting civilians intentionally.

Among all of those polled, 48% said they believe Israel should do more to prevent civilian casualties in Gaza.

When asked about the handling of the war, 44% said Israel should stop its military campaign and 39% supported the IDF continuing its fight in Gaza to eliminate Hamas.