Tensions are rising between the Biden administration and the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over continued settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank.
According to sources within the White House, President Biden is growing increasingly frustrated with Netanyahu’s unwillingness to halt new settlement construction. The president views this as an impediment to a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.
“The president has been very clear that Israeli settlement expansion is not helpful in working toward a lasting peace,” said one senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “At some point, he may have to reconsider aspects of U.S. policy if Netanyahu refuses to budge.”
Some Middle East experts sense a shifting dynamic in U.S.-Israeli relations since Biden succeeded former President Donald Trump in the Oval Office.
“It’s obvious that Biden does not have the same unquestioning support for Netanyahu that Trump did,” said Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress . “I think there’s a real possibility of greater friction between the two governments if the Israelis aren’t more responsive to Biden’s concerns.”
However, several figures within the administration are pushing back against pressuring Israel over the settlements issue. They include Victoria Coates, deputy national security advisor for the Middle East and North Africa.
Coates previously served as an advisor to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and is considered very pro-Israel. She has argued internally against penalizing or otherwise alienating the Israeli government.
Israel will begin to implement four-hour "humanitarian pauses" in northern Gaza each day to allow people to flee, the White House has said.
US President Joe Biden has been speaking about the pause to reporters.https://t.co/0A88Jv8ncX
📺 Sky 501, Virgin 602 and YouTube pic.twitter.com/0cwJ8ZNUxA
— Sky News (@SkyNews) November 9, 2023
Tensions over Israel policy have also emerged between U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides and Aaron David Miller, the State Department’s point person on Arab-Israeli affairs.
Nides was overheard saying that Miller needed to “get off his ass” regarding the Biden administration’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He reportedly advocated for a more hands-off posture.
For now, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is counseling patience with the Israelis. But some officials say Biden may be forced to act if Netanyahu does not shift course. Potential responses could include reducing military aid or placing new conditions on assistance.
“Biden is not Obama,” said the senior official. “He won’t hesitate to recalibrate relations with Israel if he feels Netanyahu is not acting as a partner for peace.”