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Biden Issues Ultimatum to Netanyahu: Safeguard Gaza Civilians or Risk Diminished Support

In a significant diplomatic move, U.S. President Joe Biden has issued a direct ultimatum to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, urging him to prioritize the protection of Palestinian civilians and foreign aid workers in Gaza. The ultimatum, delivered on Tuesday, suggested that failure to comply could result in the United States scaling back its support for Israel's efforts in the ongoing conflict against Hamas militants.

The development follows months of mounting pressure from the U.S. for Israel to reassess its military strategies, particularly in light of the high number of Palestinian casualties. The latest catalyst was an Israeli airstrike that claimed the lives of seven aid workers affiliated with the World Central Kitchen (WCK), sparking outrage globally.

While specifics of the desired actions were not disclosed by the White House, analysts interpret the implicit threat as potentially curbing U.S. arms transfers to Israel or tempering American support within the United Nations.

Steven Cook, an analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations, characterized the situation as a pivotal moment, akin to a "come to Jesus" encounter, referencing Biden's earlier remarks indicating an imminent turning point in his relationship with Netanyahu.

Dennis Ross, a seasoned U.S. diplomat now associated with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, highlighted the gravity of Biden's message, implying that failure to address humanitarian concerns could prompt a reevaluation of military assistance.

President Biden, facing reelection in November, finds himself in a delicate balancing act between progressive Democrats advocating for greater restraint on Israel and the risk of alienating pro-Israel voters. Thus far, Biden has refrained from imposing conditions on arms transfers.

The conflict between Israel and Hamas was ignited by a Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, resulting in casualties on both sides. However, the Israeli invasion that ensued has inflicted substantial damage on Gaza, displacing a significant portion of its population and leading to a high death toll among Palestinians, particularly women and children. Israel contends that Hamas employs civilians as human shields.

In detailing the call, the White House emphasized Biden's call for Israel to implement tangible measures addressing civilian welfare and the safety of aid workers. The statement underscored that U.S. policy towards Gaza hinges on Israel's immediate actions in this regard.

"President Biden made clear that U.S. policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel’s immediate action on these steps," the White House said in a statement.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken adopted a more straightforward tone, warning of policy changes if necessary adjustments are not observed.

"If we don’t see the changes that we need to see, there will be changes in our policy," Blinken stated.

Following the call, the Israeli government announced several initiatives aimed at enhancing aid distribution to Gaza, though it remains uncertain whether these measures will suffice to meet U.S. expectations.

The critical juncture in Biden's stance towards Israel was precipitated by the fatal attack on WCK aid workers, occurring amidst escalating pressure on Israel to reconsider its military tactics, particularly regarding the threatened offensive in the city of Rafah.

Anonymous sources familiar with the discussions described the call as tense, with Biden articulating his concerns and Netanyahu defending his approach to Gaza.

The involvement of Vice President Kamala Harris, National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan, and Secretary of State Blinken underscored the significance of the conversation, characterized by its directness and candor.

The White House official stressed the necessity for Israel to devise a comprehensive plan to address the situation effectively, emphasizing that humanitarian aid workers and civilians must be spared from harm.

While Biden has thus far refrained from imposing significant constraints on U.S. support for Israel, analysts suggest that the administration may be nearing a threshold where the costs of backing Israel's campaign outweigh the benefits.

Former National Security Council official Mike Singh speculated that if Israel fails to meet Biden's conditions, the U.S. may pursue avenues such as negotiating a U.N. Security Council resolution, similar to past conflicts.

Despite Biden's previous assurances regarding the continuity of certain forms of assistance to Israel, speculation persists regarding the potential imposition of conditions on offensive arms transfers, given Israel's heavy reliance on U.S. weaponry.

The developments signal a potential recalibration in U.S.-Israel relations, reflecting the Biden administration's evolving stance towards the conflict in Gaza and the imperative of prioritizing humanitarian concerns in the region.



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