President Biden’s unusually blunt demand Wednesday that Israel de-escalate its military attack on Gaza is creating a rare rift between the two countries and dismaying some of Israel’s supporters in the United States, while heartening Democrats who have increasingly pushed for a tougher U.S. stance toward Israel.
Biden for days had hesitated to publicly confront Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and his demand for “a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire” shook up the worlds of politics and diplomacy. It was the clearest evidence yet of a rapidly changing political dynamic, at least among Democrats, that is far less accepting of actions Israel says it is taking in self-defense.
Biden has no direct authority to impose a cease-fire on Israel, but the stern White House message was unmistakable: If Netanyahu carries the conflict much further, he risks losing significant backing in Washington.
The United States and Israel have differed before, often on the issue of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. But a posture of unshakeable solidarity has been far more common in the history of the two countries, and the United States holds powerful leverage as the Jewish state’s most important ally and chief diplomatic defender on the world stage
In the early hours of Thursday, Israel carried out more than a dozen airstrikes on Gaza, including two that destroyed two houses in the territory’s south. Medics said four people were wounded in an airstrike on the town of Khan Younis in southern Gaza. Israel’s military said its aircraft struck what it said was a “weapons storage unit” in the Gaza City home of a Hamas official and “military infrastructure located in the residences” of other Hamas commanders, including in Khan Younis.