Rabu, 19 Mei 2021

Joe Biden tells Israel he expects a ‘significant de-escalation’ in Gaza violence, ramping up diplomatic pressure -

The United States has ramped up the diplomatic pressure on Israel to reach a ceasefire with Hamas, as the violence in Gaza approaches the end of its second week.

Thus far, the fighting has caused more than 200 Palestinian deaths, while at least 12 people have died in Israel.

US President Joe Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this morning and said he “expected” a “significant de-escalation” in the next 24 hours. It was the pair’s fourth conversation in the past week.

“The two leaders had a detailed discussion on the state of events in Gaza, Israel’s progress in degrading the capabilities of Hamas, and ongoing diplomatic efforts by regional governments and the United States,” the White House said in its readout of the phone call.

“The President conveyed to the Prime Minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire.”

That message is noticeably pointed compared to Mr Biden’s previous statements, most of which emphasised Israel’s right to defend itself.

RELATED: Day of anger in Gaza as death toll rises

He only came out in support of a ceasefire on Monday. Before that, the White House had stressed its desire to keep its conversations with Israel private.

“Our calculation at this point is that having those conversations behind the scenes, weighing in with our important strategic partnership we have with Israel, also with other countries in the region, is the most constructive approach we can take,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at the start of the week.

“So our approach is through quiet, intensive diplomacy. That’s where we feel we can be most effective.”

Ms Psaki repeatedly declined to say whether Mr Biden felt Israel’s response to Palestinian rocket attacks was proportionate.

Even when Mr Biden did voice support for a ceasefire, he kept his language unconfrontational.

“The President reiterated his firm support for Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks,” the White House said on Monday, after an earlier call with Mr Netanyahu.

“He encouraged Israel to make every effort to ensure the protection of innocent civilians.

“The President expressed his support for a ceasefire and discussed US engagement with Egypt and other partners towards that end.”

So we have moved from Mr Biden “encouraging” Israel to protect civilians to him “expecting” an immediate de-escalation.

Mr Netanyahu pushed back on the calls for an quick ceasefire when he spoke to foreign ambassadors in Israel today.

“We don’t stand with a timer. We want to achieve the goals of the operation. Previous operations lasted a long time, so it is not possible to set a time frame on the operation,” he said, according to local media.

Mr Biden’s gradual move to apply pressure on Israel has caused tensions with some members of his party who want him to do more.

“The President needs to tell Netanyahu to stop,” Congressman Ro Khanna said this week.

“This is not the time for platitudes. The children are dying and Netanyahu, who desperately wants to cling to power, says he is doing it with the support of the United States. The President must be very clear: no you are not.”

“I just think it’s obvious for the United States to push for a ceasefire,” said Senator Chris Murphy.

“If Israel does not believe that a ceasefire is in its best interests, that does not mean that we have to accept this judgment. We have enormous power of persuasion.”

“I just don’t remember a shooting war where children are being killed on both sides where the US did not aggressively push for a ceasefire,” said Senator Tim Kaine, who was the party’s vice presidential nominee in 2016.

The two most senior Democrats in Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, both came out in support of a ceasefire before the President.

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2021-05-19 15:56:56Z

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