Biden: ‘Every reason’ to think Netanyahu wants war with Hamas to go on


There is “every reason” for people in Israel to conclude their prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is prolonging the war against Hamas to stay in power, President Joe Biden said in a Time interview published Wednesday.

Biden also said that Israel made the “mistake” of conducting a Gaza campaign in destructively similar ways to the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

“It led to endless wars,” Biden told Time. “Don’t make the mistakes we made. And they’re making that mistake.”

Those are among the harshest comments Biden has leveled at Netanyahu since Israel’s retaliation for Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack. The interview with Biden, conducted on May 28, days before he called on Israel and Hamas to broker a cease-fire, confirms the president no longer reserves his broadsides for private phone calls. They are now out in the open, potentially further straining a relationship that has suffered over eight months of war.

Asked whether Netanyahu wanted the war to continue for his own political self-preservation, Biden initially replied, “I’m not going to comment on that.” But then he said: “There is every reason for people to draw that conclusion.”

Biden, however, used the wide-ranging interview to offer qualified support for Netanyahu. He said Hamas was at fault not only for starting the war, but also failing to reach an agreement that could temporarily halt the fighting and lead to hostage releases. He said it was “uncertain” if Israel had committed war crimes. And he pushed back on former President Donald Trump’s criticism that Netanyahu is to blame for allowing the Oct. 7 attack to happen on his watch.

“I don’t know how any one person has that responsibility. He was the leader of the country, so therefore, it happened. But he wasn’t the only one that didn’t pick it up,” Biden said, alluding to reports that Israeli officials had Hamas’ assault plans for more than a year.

But it’s Biden’s hint that Netanyahu doesn’t want the war to end so he can remain in power that will land heaviest in Israel and with the administration’s critics. Rebeccah Heinrichs, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, posted Wednesday on X: “A ridiculous and harmful thing to even imply.”

Netanyahu is in a political and legal bind.

The far-right leaders of his coalition government say they will depart if the prime minister backs the cease-fire deal Israel proposed and Biden touted Friday, which would see fighting stop for at least six weeks and potentially lead to the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. That would collapse the government and likely end Netanyahu’s premiership, as current polls show war cabinet member Benny Gantz with more support.

A corruption trial for Netanyahu, which began in January 2020, resumed two months after Hamas’ attack. He faces charges in three separate cases: one related to receiving gifts from foreign business leaders, a second on seeking favorable coverage from a newspaper in exchange for curbing a rival outlet’s circulation, and a third alleging bribery and fraud.

Netanyahu has long denied those charges. But his government proposed reforms to declaw Israel’s Supreme Court, widely seen by the Israeli people as Netanyahu’s attempt to avoid prison should he be found guilty. Protests rocked the country for weeks, calling on Netanyahu to step aside, but those concerns fell into the background following Oct. 7.



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