Biden to Bibi: ‘De-escalate today’

WASHINGTON DC (Age-ncies): President Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday that he expects a “significant de-escalation” in the violence between Israel and Hamas to put the two sides on a path to a ceasefire, according to the White House.

“The two leaders had a detailed discussion on the state of events in Gaza, Israel’s progress in degrading the capabilities of Hamas and other terrorist elements, and ongoing diplomatic efforts by regional governments and the United States,” the White House said in a readout of the Wednesday morning call between the two leaders. “The President conveyed to the Prime Minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire.”

Wednesday was the first time that Biden set a deadline on when he would like to see a reduction in the latest violence, which has persisted in the Middle East for more than a week and led to Israeli and Palestinian civilian deaths. Biden has previously expressed support for a ceasefire in the region, after officials stopped short of doing so publicly.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brushed off President Biden’s call for a “significant de-escalation” of the conflict in Gaza, saying he is “determined to continue” the operation against the terrorist organization Hamas – just as Biden is facing pressure from the progressive arm of his own party on the issue.

During a visit to military headquarters hours later, Netanyahu said he “greatly appreciates the support of the American president,” but said Israel will push ahead “to return the calm and security to you, citizens of Israel.”

He added that he is “determined to continue this operation until its aim is met.”
Biden has come under growing pressure from some progressive Democrats to take a harder line against Israel for its role in the conflict. During a trip to Michigan on Tuesday, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) pressed Biden to do more to protect Palestinian lives and stand up to what she says are Israeli crimes against Palestinians.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has blamed “right-wing extremists in Jerusalem” for the violence, while Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and the leader of the “Squad,” has been critical of Biden’s support for Israel.

“Blanket statements like these [with] little context or acknowledgment of what precipitated this cycle of violence – namely, the expulsions of Palestinians and attacks on Al Aqsa – dehumanize Palestinians [and] imply the US will look the other way at human rights violations. It’s wrong,” she tweeted last week.

On Tuesday, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., appeared to have a heated conversation with Biden as he arrived in Michigan on Tuesday.

Tlaib, who is of Palestinian heritage, has been a vocal critic of Israel and of the administration’s response to the conflict.

“If you support a cease-fire, then get out of the way of the U.N. Security Council and join other countries in demanding it,” she said in a tweet on Monday directed at the president and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jeanne-Pierre would not say whether Netanyahu gave Biden any assurances.

She also did not elaborate on why the administration set the deadline of Wednesday for a reduction of violence or what recourse the U.S. has if Biden’s call is not heeded.
“Our focus has not changed. We are working towards a de-escalation … to a sustainable calm,” Jeanne-Pierre said. “Our approach is to make sure that we do this quietly, intensively, in a diplomatic way.”

“He wants to be on a path to a ceasefire. That is what he is calling for,” she later added.

Wednesday’s call was Biden’s fourth with Netanyahu over the course of a week.
The readout was the first to say publicly that Biden called on Netanyahu to alter the Israeli military’s approach and allow for de-escalation.

The White House previously stated that Israel maintained the right to defend itself.
The Israeli military has conducted hundreds of airstrikes against what it says are Hamas targets in Gaza over the past week. Hamas has fired over 3,000 rockets at civilian targets in Israel.

There have been dozens of civilian deaths among Israelis and Palestinians, including children.