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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Biden knew Israel was bombing indiscriminately – WaPo

The US president was told in October that Israeli airstrikes were often carried out without “solid intelligence,” the newspaper claims

The White House knew since late October that Israel was regularly bombing civilian targets in Gaza, but President Joe Biden continued to publicly defend the Israeli military’s conduct, the Washington Post reported on Monday.

On October 27, three weeks into Israel’s war with Hamas, Biden’s top foreign policy officials told a small group at the White House that “Israel was regularly bombing buildings without solid intelligence that they were legitimate military targets,” the newspaper wrote, citing three sources familiar with the meeting.

Read more: Zelensky’s wife snubs Biden – WaPo

The officials also expressed concern that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had no clear plan for defeating the Palestinian militant group, with one source telling the Post that “from the very beginning, there’s been a sense of us not knowing how the Israelis were going to do what they said they were going to do.”

At the time, the US was rushing military aid to Israel. Two weeks before the meeting, Biden visited the Jewish state and publicly declared that “as long as the United States stands…[Israel] will not be alone.” On the same day as the meeting, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the US would not impose any “red lines” on how Israel conducted its military campaign.

The meeting did little to change the rhetoric of Biden or his officials. The president didn’t criticize Israel over the repeated bombing of a refugee camp in early November. Likewise, the White House publicly backed Israel’s decision to bomb Gaza’s largest hospital later that month, with Kirby telling reporters that Hamas had hidden a command center beneath the facility.

Read more: Netanyahu hits back at Biden

Behind the scenes, however, US officials worried that such a statement would be seen by the Israelis as a “green light” to attack the hospital, the Washington Post reported. Democratic Senator Chris van Hollen told the newspaper that there was “some disconnect” between what Kirby said and what US intelligence reports actually showed, without explaining further.

Amid growing discontent from his own voters, Biden has since become more critical of Netanyahu. As early as January, the US president claimed that he was “quietly working with the Israeli government to get them to reduce and significantly get out of Gaza.” However, “When those conversations yielded little result, US officials offered few public rebukes and no evident consequences,” the Post’s sources said.

At every juncture, Netanyahu has given Biden the finger,” van Hollen told Axios in January, declaring that the Biden administration is “pleading with the Netanyahu coalition, but getting slapped in the face over and over again.”

Netanyahu announced on Friday that he had approved plans to attack the city of Rafah in southern Gaza. Rafah is currently home to more than a million Palestinians displaced from other parts of the enclave, and Biden told MSNBC earlier this month that an Israeli operation there would cross a “red line.”

Biden partially walked his comments back moments later, telling MSNBC that Netanyahu “has a right to defend Israel,” but must “pay more attention to the innocent lives being lost.”