A few weeks ago, I predicted that after giving Israel a few weeks to end its war with Hamas, President Biden would turn on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2024 because of growing and outspoken opposition to the war by Mr. Biden’s anti-Israel progressive base.
I was wrong. President Biden began vilifying Netanyahu and his government this week.
This included President Biden making the very damning public statement that Israel was losing international support because of its “indiscriminate bombing” of Gaza.
The President also this week called for Netanyahu to “change his government” to expel hardline ministers who oppose a two-state solution peace agreement between Israel and Palestinians and criticized Netanyahu’s administration as the “most conservative government in Israel’s history.”
President Biden’s criticism comes at a pivotal time when Israel is facing growing global opposition to the war and a recent nonbinding UN General Assembly resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire that passed overwhelmingly.
Although President Biden has described his support for Israel after the horrific October 7 terrorist attack as “rock solid,” his support has been accompanied by public criticism and statements on how Israel should conduct the war. For example, the President conditioned his October 19 visit to Israel on an explicit commitment from Netanyahu to open Gaza for humanitarian aid. He has called on Israel to respect international and humanitarian law, implying that it has not done so. President Biden and his senior officials also have repeatedly stated that the Palestinian Authority must govern Gaza after the war concludes and that Israel cannot occupy Gaza.
Over the last few weeks, Biden Administration officials told the Israeli government they want the war wrapped up in weeks, not months, and want a process to place Gaza under the administration of the Palestinian Authority.
Netanyahu has rejected calls for a cease-fire or an early end to the war, pledging on December 13, “We are continuing until the end, there is no question. I say this even given the great pain, and the international pressure. Nothing will stop us, we will continue until the end, until victory, nothing less.”
In a video statement on December 12, Netanyahu also rejected U.S. calls for the Palestinian Authority to run Gaza when he said, “After the great sacrifice of our civilians and our soldiers, I will not allow the entry into Gaza of those who educate for terrorism, support terrorism and finance terrorism.” In addition, Netanyahu appeared to reject the idea of a two-state solution peace plan when he insisted that he “will not allow Israel to repeat the mistake of Oslo.” This was a reference to the failed 1993 Oslo Accords, which granted the Palestine Liberation Authority limited autonomy over the West Bank and Gaza.
It is unheard of for an American president to publicly criticize or dictate to a close ally who is at war the way Joe Biden has done to Israel since the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack. This criticism initially appeared to reflect the Biden Administration’s dislike of Netanyahu and his conservative government as well as Netanyahu’s opposition to many of the Biden Administration’s Middle East policies, such as attempting to negotiate a new nuclear agreement with Iran and resuming U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority.
The Biden Administration’s criticism of the Israeli government intensified over the last few weeks in response to an outpouring of opposition to the war and anti-Israel sentiment by the American Left. Massive anti-Israel and anti-Semitic demonstrations, acts of civil disobedience, and fierce criticism of President Biden—such as young demonstrators carrying “Genocide Joe” signs—caught Biden Administration officials off guard and left them scrambling to placate this important group of supporters.
Although there is still considerable bipartisan support for President Biden’s backing of Israel after the October 7 terrorist attack, Biden’s new sharp criticism of Prime Minister Netanyahu shows how worried he is about strong and growing opposition to the war from progressives, younger voters, and American Muslims. Biden Administration officials realize how important these groups are to their future and are eager to appease them quickly.
It was therefore predictable that President Biden would eventually try to make Netanyahu a pariah over the war to deflect criticism from his administration and win back progressive supporters. This will include more extravagant and unrealistic demands over the next year to end the war and for a two-state solution that neither Israel nor the Palestinians are interested in.
This treatment of one of America’s closest allies at such a dire time in its history is shameful and unprincipled. It will lead to unnecessary tension between the United States and Israel at a time when there should be no daylight between the two countries on security issues. It also reflects the fecklessness of President Biden’s leadership as Commander-in-Chief and why Biden has severely undermined international security and America’s global reputation during his presidency.
Fred Fleitz is vice-chair of the America First Policy Institute Center for American Security. He previously served as National Security Council chief of staff, CIA analyst and a House Intelligence Committee staff member.