How a brief exchange in a call explains the strained Biden-Netanyahu relationship

How a brief exchange in a call explains the strained Biden-Netanyahu relationship - Business and Finance - News

Title: The Delicate Dance between Biden and Netanyahu: Navigating Crises, Political Intrigue, and the Future of Israeli Leadership

The phone conversation between US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in mid-January was far from ordinary, as the leaders tackled a range of pressing issues that extended beyond the ongoing ceasefire and hostage negotiations in Gaza.

Amidst mounting civilian casualties in Gaza, the US was eager to facilitate a pathway towards an eventual two-state solution. However, during their discussion, Netanyahu brought up an issue of political significance: recent media coverage alleging that the Biden administration was making plans for a post-Netanyahu Israeli government.

Netanyahu, visibly annoyed, confronted Biden about such reports, which he perceived as unwarranted interference in Israel’s internal politics. The US president swiftly dismissed the idea, emphasizing that his current counterpart was the one he was working with to address the crises at hand and would remain their primary point of contact.

Despite the weighty wartime matters under discussion, both leaders shared a common sentiment – frustration over anonymous government officials’ quotes in media stories that often lacked context and accuracy.

This seemingly minor exchange during their call provided valuable insights into the complex relationship between Biden and Netanyahu, two leaders grappling with crises at home while dealing with growing domestic pressures. The events in Gaza were poised to significantly influence each leader’s political future.

Following his State of the Union speech, where Biden emphasized the importance of humanitarian assistance, he shared his thoughts with a Democratic senator regarding Netanyahu’s leadership. The president’s remarks were overheard by an aide, who attempted to intervene when they realized the conversation was being recorded for the cameras. Biden acknowledged the situation and continued with his candid assessment.

For Netanyahu, the impending end of the Gaza war presents a significant challenge – the potential dissolution of his right-wing coalition, which could bring an end to his tenure as prime minister. The mere suggestion of active US planning for a post-Netanyahu Israeli government would only add fuel to the fire, further intensifying his efforts to hold on to power.

Biden, on the other hand, is eager for the war to conclude so he can address the eroding support from key constituency groups like Muslim- and Arab-Americans, progressives, and young voters. These demographics are angered by his refusal to call for a permanent ceasefire and the escalating humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

The contrasting interests of both leaders have placed immense pressure on their already strained relationship. Despite their decades-long friendship, the two men have engaged in frank and heated discussions, with no shortage of sharp words and grievance airing. When asked about the exchange, an official from Netanyahu’s office dismissed the characterization of their conversation.

One senior Biden advisor acknowledged that moments of tension and disagreement have arisen between the two leaders since the start of the war. However, they emphasized that despite their differences, their relationship remains relatively unchanged due to their long-standing divergent worldviews.

As Biden prepared to board Air Force One, he simply stated that his relationship with Netanyahu “is what it’s always been.” Similarly, a National Security Council spokesperson told CNN that Biden and Netanyahu have maintained a good and productive relationship dating back decades.

Despite the continuity in their relationship, the political landscape has drastically changed, with stakes significantly higher than before. Their conversations have oscillated between familiar warmth and heated disputes, including a notorious moment in December when Biden abruptly ended a call.

Biden’s understanding of Netanyahu’s political predicament and sensitivity to aggravating his vulnerabilities have been crucial in their interactions. However, the recent visit to Washington by Netanyahu’s political rival Benny Gantz, who met with various US officials without Netanyahu’s approval, fueled speculation about the Biden administration looking beyond the current Israeli leadership.

Biden’s aides were quick to downplay such suggestions and maintained that Gantz’s meetings did not indicate any intention of bypassing Netanyahu. However, privately, many administration officials saw Netanyahu’s statements regarding the war and his stance on a Palestinian state as motivated by domestic politics.

Israeli public opinion remains largely supportive of the ongoing effort against Hamas, with minimal disagreement among Netanyahu and his political rivals on prosecuting the war. However, the humanitarian suffering in Gaza has put immense pressure on Netanyahu to secure the release of remaining hostages and finalize a ceasefire agreement. Negotiations for hostage releases in exchange for a six-week truce have stalled, with hopes of a deal before the Ramadan holiday fading.