Bibi: Perceived Tension Between US and Israel Hurts Hostage Negotiations

'It means that we have to apply the pressure even more,' Israeli PM tells Dan Senor

Benjamin Netanyahu (Twitter)
May 13, 2024

Perceived tension between the United States and Israel thanks to comments from President Joe Biden and senior administration officials is hurting hostage negotiations and destabilizing the Middle East, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

In recent days, Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered a report to Congress arguing that the Israel Defense Forces may have violated international humanitarian law, the latest in a string of public criticisms from senior Biden administration officials. "It gives succor to Iran and its henchmen," Netanyahu said Sunday on Dan Senor's Call Me Back podcast. "But it means we have to apply the pressure even more."

Of his efforts to negotiate the return of 132 remaining hostages in Gaza, including at least 6 Americans, Netanyahu said the Biden administration’s rhetoric "doesn't help the hostage situation."

"What do you do when you’re faced with such international pressure?" he continued. "I can say that in Israel’s history, when faced with this kind of pressure, leaders did what they had to do."

Netanyahu’s remarks come days after the Biden administration halted a weapons shipment to Israel, a move Biden kept private until after he delivered a Holocaust Remembrance Day speech. In those remarks, Biden said his "commitment to the safety of the Jewish people" is "ironclad." Just a day later, on May 8, the president said he would cut off U.S. arms sales to Israel should Israel move forward with an operation in Rafah.

"I made it clear that if they go into Rafah—they haven't gone into Rafah yet—if they go into Rafah, I'm not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities," Biden told CNN.

Netanyahu told Senor he appreciates the support Biden has provided Israel in the war thus far. Should that support dry up, however, Netanyahu said Israel will "stand alone."

"If we have to stand alone, we will do so, because I'm the prime minister of Israel, the one and only Jewish state, and we will not go down," he said. "The fate of the world depends on where America goes. I think for the sake of humanity, for the sake of our common future, our common values, our civilization, it is very important that America retains its dominant position as the supreme global power."

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Netanyahu is negotiating an agreement with Biden to resume U.S. arms shipments, the Israeli prime minister told NBC News on Thursday, adding that he has "no other choice" but to move forward with a Rafah assault and "defeat Hamas."

"In fact, if you want to avoid civilian casualties, you need these weapons rather than imprecise weaponry," said Netanyahu. "We will defeat Hamas, including in Rafah. We have no other choice."

In addition to Biden's Rafah threat, the State Department on Friday released a report criticizing Israel over its "practices for mitigating civilian harm" in Gaza. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) responded by calling for an end to U.S. aid to Israel.

"Any objective observer knows Israel has broken international law, it has broken American law, and in my view, Israel should not be receiving another nickel in U.S. military aid," Sanders said Sunday.