Biden says Israel losing global support, Netanyahu ‘has to change this government’

Click to play video: '‘Palestine will cease to exist’: Israel accused of pushing Gazans into Egypt'
‘Palestine will cease to exist’: Israel accused of pushing Gazans into Egypt
WATCH: 'Palestine will cease to exist': Israel accused of pushing Gazans into Egypt – Dec 11, 2023

U.S. President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that Israel is beginning to lose global support because of what he described as “indiscriminate bombing” of the Gaza Strip as it seeks to destroy Hamas.

Biden’s comments made at a campaign fundraiser in Washington, D.C., marked a stark shift in tone after weeks of unwavering support for Israel’s campaign in Gaza, and were his most critical yet of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the conflict.

“Israel’s security can rest on the United States, but right now it has more than the United States. It has the European Union, it has Europe, it has most of the world supporting them,” Biden told the group of donors at a Washington hotel.

“They’re starting to lose that support by indiscriminate bombing that takes place.”

Click to play video: 'WHO unanimously calls for immediate medical access to Gaza'
WHO unanimously calls for immediate medical access to Gaza

The United Nations, citing the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, says more than 18,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched waves of airstrikes and ground offensives in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which Israel says killed 1,200 civilians. More than 50,000 Gazans have been wounded in the attacks, the UN says, which have created a humanitarian crisis.

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Later on Tuesday, the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to demand an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in Gaza and the immediate release of all hostages.

The vote in the 193-member world body was 153 in favor, 10 against and 23 abstentions — stronger support than an earlier ceasefire resolution received in October. Canada voted in favour of the non-binding resolution Tuesday, while the U.S. voted against it, less than a week after it vetoed a ceasefire motion in the UN Security Council.

Biden supported a week-long pause in hostilities late last month but has also avoided calling for a ceasefire. He traveled to Tel Aviv shortly after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack and embraced Netanyahu while pledging continued U.S. support for Israel.

Yet in his remarks Tuesday, Biden noted that the Israeli government was “the most conservative government in Israel’s history.” He specifically called out Israel’s national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, the leader of a far-right Israeli party who opposes a two-state solution and has called for Israel to reassert control over all of the West Bank and Gaza.

Ben-Gvir sits on Israel’s security cabinet, but is not a member of the country’s three-person war cabinet.

“I think he (Netanyahu) has to change this government. His government in Israel is making it very difficult,” Biden said.

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Amid bloodshed in Gaza, Israeli settler violence surges in West Bank

In a statement issued before Biden’s remarks, Netanyahu said Israel had received “full backing” from the U.S. for its ground incursion into Gaza and that Washington had blocked “international pressure to stop the war.”

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But he added: “There is disagreement about ‘the day after Hamas’ and I hope that we will reach agreement here as well.”

Biden’s comments came shortly after the prime ministers of Canada, Australia and New Zealand issued a joint statement where they expressed their support for a “sustainable ceasefire.” The leaders also called for the end of Hamas’ rule over Gaza and a “just and enduring peace in the form of a two-state solution.”

Prior to question period, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters that he spoke with Netanyahu ahead of the UN vote.

“I just got off the phone with a long and detailed conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel in which I outlined Canada’s position. And we are committed to working with partners in the region and around the world towards an enduring two-state solution,” Trudeau said.

“Canada is committed to ensuring that Israelis and Palestinians get to live in peace and security within internationally-recognized borders in peaceful and successful states.”

A Biden administration official told Global News there is no change to the U.S. position on a ceasefire, adding on background that it continues to support temporary “humanitarian pauses” that allow aid into Gaza and for civilians to flee violence, as well as the safe return of hostages.

“What we do not support are calls for Israel to stop defending itself from Hamas terrorists, which is what a permanent ceasefire would be,” the official added.

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Click to play video: 'Aid groups warn of starvation in Gaza after U.S. vetoes ceasefire call'
Aid groups warn of starvation in Gaza after U.S. vetoes ceasefire call

Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, Western leaders had long resisted growing public calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, but the mounting death toll and humanitarian crisis has sparked a shift in rhetoric. Yet the U.S. has become increasingly isolated as it refuses to support an end to hostilities, despite being seen as the only ally capable of persuading Israel to accept one.

“I think it will send a message to Washington and to others,” Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters before the vote. He said a demand from the United Nations, whether it’s the Security Council or the General Assembly, should be looked at as binding.

“And Israel has to abide by it, and those who are shielding and protecting Israel until now should also look at it this way, and therefore act accordingly,” Mansour said.

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The resolution expresses “grave concern over the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and the suffering of the Palestinian civilian population,” and it says Palestinians and Israelis must be protected in accordance with international humanitarian law.

It also demands that all parties comply with international humanitarian law, “notably with regard to the protection of civilians,” and calls for “the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, as well as ensuring humanitarian access.”

The resolution makes no mention of Hamas. An amendment proposed by the U.S. that sought to add a paragraph stating the assembly “unequivocally rejects and condemns the heinous terrorist attacks by Hamas” was voted down.

Click to play video: 'Israel-Hamas: Trudeau warns the ‘cost of justice’ cannot be the ‘continued suffering of all Palestinian civilians’'
Israel-Hamas: Trudeau warns the ‘cost of justice’ cannot be the ‘continued suffering of all Palestinian civilians’

Biden has not been shy about his longstanding ideological disagreements with Netanyahu, which date back decades to when Biden was a U.S. senator.

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During Tuesday’s fundraiser and at a White House Hanukkah reception on Monday, he repeated an often-told story about inscribing on a photo with Netanyahu decades ago, “Bibi, I love you but I don’t agree with a damn thing you have to say.” He then added, “That remains to be the case today.”

He expanded on that Monday by noting that while the U.S. continues to support Israel with military assistance “until they get rid of Hamas,” the conflict has created “a tough spot.”

“We have to be careful,” Biden said. “They have to be careful. The whole world’s public opinion can shift overnight. We can’t let that happen.”

Biden on Tuesday alluded to a private conversation in which the Israeli leader said: “‘You carpet-bombed Germany, you dropped the atom bomb, a lot of civilians died.'”

Biden said he responded: “Yeah, that’s why all these institutions were set up after World War II to see to it that it didn’t happen again.”

— with files from Global’s David Baxter, Reuters and the Associated Press

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