Biden to Netanyahu: I’m not trying to overthrow you

During a telephone conversation between the two leaders, Netanyahu reportedly aired grievances about Democratic Sen. Schumer’s call for early Israeli elections.

By Israel Today Staff | | Topics: Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden
U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo by Avi Ohayon/GPO.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo by Avi Ohayon/GPO.

US President Joe Biden assured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their call this week that he is not trying to oust the Israeli leader from power, two sources with knowledge of the conversation told Axios on Tuesday.

During the Monday call, Netanyahu reportedly aired his grievances regarding Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s call for early elections in Israel, as well as Biden’s subsequent endorsement of the speech.

The Israeli leader also charged that the public attacks against him in the United States amount to interference in domestic politics, the sources told Axios.

According to the sources Biden pushed back, saying he was not trying to undermine Netanyahu and had not intended to intervene in Israeli politics. One of the sources said the talk somewhat helped clear the air between the two.

While the Prime Minister’s Office and the White House did not respond to requests for comment, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters on Monday that Netanyahu did raise “his concerns about a variety of things that have come out in the American press.”

“I’m not going to talk specifically about any one of them because I want to, you know, let the prime minister speak for himself and also protect the discretion of the call,” added Sullivan.

In a speech on the Senate floor Thursday that Schumer described as a “major address” on a possible two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians, the Democrat labeled some of Netanyahu’s senior Cabinet members and “bigots” and “extremists” and called for an early election.

Schumer claimed that he was speaking on behalf of “mainstream Jewish Americans” to represent their views on the Arab-Israeli conflict. He implied that Washington should condition or cut off military aid to Jerusalem unless a new government is formed.

Netanyahu reiterated in an interview with Dana Bash of CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that Israelis should decide when a vote should be held and denounced Schumer’s demands as “ridiculous.”

“It’s like after 9/11, you’re in the midst of fighting the war against Al-Qaeda, and an Israeli would say: ‘You know, what we need now is either new elections in the US, or if your system doesn’t allow it, then President Bush should resign and we should have an alternative leader. … You don’t do that to a sister democracy, an ally,” said Netanyahu.

According to a survey published on March 10, even Israelis who do not trust Netanyahu’s leadership continue to back some of his key war policies, including his opposition to the two-state solution and insistence that the Israel Defense Forces defeat Hamas in Rafah.

Almost three in four Jewish Israelis believe US support for Israel has dwindled following Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre, the poll found.

Last month, a senior Biden administration official told NBC News that “there is a growing divide between the US and Israel,” specifically over the looming IDF offensive in Rafah, Hamas’s final stronghold in Gaza.

During their phone call on Monday, Biden told Netanyahu that he could not support a major military offensive against Hamas in Rafah. Instead, the White House favors a limited operation aimed at high-value terrorist targets and securing the Gaza-Egypt border.

However, speaking at a closed-door parliamentary committee Tuesday, Netanyahu told Israeli lawmakers that his government is “determined to complete the elimination of these battalions in Rafah.”

On Tuesday night, the Prime Minister’s Office announced that Netanyahu would be sending two of his trusted associates, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi, to Washington to discuss the operation. They will be joined by an official from The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli Defense Ministry unit responsible for civilian affairs in the territories.

The announcement came after Biden asked Netanyahu to dispatch a “senior inter-agency team composed of military, intelligence and humanitarian officials.” The meeting will likely take place early next week, but the White House has said it could be as soon as this week.

Ynet reported on Tuesday that Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is working to plan a separate visit to the United States, in what would be his first trip since the Oct. 7 attacks. Gallant reportedly received tentative approval from Netanyahu for the trip.

Addressing troops in western Gaza City last week, Gallant seemed to indicate that the IDF operation in Rafah would happen soon. “Even those who think that we are delaying will soon see that we will reach everyone,” he stated, according to a Defense Ministry readout.

With reporting by JNS.

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