WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden appeared Tuesday to offer his harshest criticism yet of the Israeli government since Hamas’ terrorist attack on Oct. 7, saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a “tough decision to make.”
Biden made the remarks at an off-camera campaign reception in Washington on Tuesday afternoon, suggesting that Netanyahu’s government is hindering a long-term solution.
“I think he has to change, and with this government, this government in Israel is making it very difficult for him to move,” he said.
The president said that far-right members of the Israeli government, like National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, don’t want a two-state solution with the Palestinians and that changes must be made to the government.
“And, folks, look, if you think about it, one of the things that Bibi understands, I think, now — but I’m not sure Ben-Gvir and his war Cabinet do, who I’ve spoken to several times — is that Israel’s security can rest on the United States, but right now it has more than the United States. It has the European Union, it has Europe, it has most of the world supporting it,” Biden said. “But they’re starting to lose that support by the indiscriminate bombing that takes place.”
Biden warned that Israel is beginning to lose support in Europe and around the world because of its military offensive against Hamas in Gaza and the rising number of civilian deaths. The president reiterated that Israel can learn from the mistakes that the U.S. made after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
At the same time, Biden said that Hamas must be held accountable for Oct. 7.
He also spoke about the conflict in the Middle East during a White House Hanukkah reception Monday evening.
“I make no bones about it, I’ve had my differences with some Israeli leadership. I’ve known Bibi for now 51 years,” he said. “We have to be careful. The whole world’s public opinion can shift overnight.”
Biden said that many of those at the reception know someone directly or indirectly who has been affected by the Oct. 7 attack or by Israel’s response.
“As I said after the attack, my commitment to the safety of Jewish people, the security of Israel, and its right to exist as an independent state is unshakable,” he said. “Folks, were there no Israel, there wouldn’t be a Jew in the world that was safe.”
The Ministry of Health in Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, said Tuesday that more than 18,000 people have been killed in the territory since Oct. 7.
Israeli military officials, meanwhile, say 97 of their soldiers have been killed during the country’s fight in Gaza, which came in response to Hamas terrorists killing about 1,200 people and seizing about 240 hostages.
As the death toll has risen, calls for a cease-fire have grown. The U.S. vetoed a United Nations resolution Friday that called for an immediate cease-fire, with the deputy U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Robert Wood, saying the resolution “would only plant the seeds for the next war.”
A temporary humanitarian pause had been in effect last month as part of a deal to exchange hostages held in Gaza for Palestinian prisoners, but fighting resumed after Israel said Hamas broke the agreement.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com