Biden “expressed his support for a ceasefire” to Israeli PM
▶ Watch Video: Biden pressured to respond to escalating Mideast violence
President Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday night, their second phone call since Saturday. The president is expressing support for a ceasefire, which comes as fellow Democrats are urging him to do more to stop the violence.
According to the readout of the call, Mr. Biden “reiterated his firm support for Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks.” Mr. Biden also “encouraged Israel to make every effort to ensure the protection of innocent civilians.”
Mr. Biden “expressed his support for a ceasefire and discussed U.S. engagement with Egypt and other partners towards that end,” the readout said.
Additionally, the readout said the two leaders agreed that they and their teams would remain in close touch.
The White House is under increasing pressure to speak out more forcefully against the Israeli strikes as the number of dead and wounded Palestinians far outpace the number of Israeli victims.
Thousands rallied in support of the Palestinians across the U.S. over the weekend as nearly 30 Democratic senators called for an immediate ceasefire.
“There isn’t really a path to peace without the United States playing a role, and so I hope the Biden team’s going to be very active over the next few days to try to wind down these hostilities,” Senator Chris Murphy said.
Senator Bernie Sanders, a one-time Biden rival, wrote in The New York Times over the weekend that the U.S. should stop supporting Netanyahu. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez questioned if U.S. aid has contributed to violence inflicted on the Palestinians.
“Our role as White House, as the federal government, is to play a constructive role in diplomacy, to have intensive, quiet discussions with leaders in the region,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said when asked by CBS News whether members of Mr. Biden’s own party were wrong.
But that sort of approach with Netanyahu may not work, as he signaled no plans to change tactics against Hamas on Sunday. “We’re not going to just let them get away with it. Neither would you,” he told CBS’ Face the Nation.
Palestinian diplomat Maen Rashid Areikat said Mr. Biden has to do more. “I think the United States and the international community need to work more diligently to rein in Israel and tell them enough is enough.”
Earlier Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters he had not seen intelligence showing that Hamas was hiding inside a building that was destroyed by Israel this weekend. That bombing caused outrage because the building also housed the Associated Press and Al Jazeera in Gaza. Now, the State Department walked that back, saying while the secretary hasn’t personally seen the intelligence, others in the U.S. government have.