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Biden officials concerned that Netanyahu’s criticism of US will harm efforts to de-escalate Israel conflict with Lebanon

June 20, 2024 at 6:58 pm

US President Joe Biden is welcomed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) at the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel on October 18, 2023. [GPO/ Handout – Anadolu Agency]

Officials in the administration of the United States’ President, Joe Biden, have expressed concern that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s criticism of Washington is harming diplomatic efforts to avert a war with Hezbollah and Lebanon.

In a video released on Tuesday, Netanyahu stated that it is “inconceivable that in the past few months, the [Biden] administration has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel”, criticising Washington for allegedly being insufficient in its support for Tel Aviv throughout the offensive on the Gaza Strip.

The release of the video came as President Biden’s envoy, Amos Hochstein, had been visiting Israel and Lebanon in an attempt to de-escalate the rapidly-increasing conflict between Israeli forces and Hezbollah on the Israeli-Lebanese border region.

Following Netanyahu’s public criticism, White House Press Secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, said that “We genuinely do not know what he is talking about”, stressing that billions of dollars of weapons had been allowed to flow to Occupation forces since Israel launched its assault on Gaza, with only one arms shipment having been paused.

According to the news outlet, Axios, unnamed US officials informed it that diplomats in the Biden administration were shocked and aggravated by the ingratitude shown by Netanyahu, with some officials saying the Israeli Premier looked “unhinged” in his video. As a result of the controversy, Washington reportedly decided to cancel a high-level meeting with Israeli officials regarding Iran and Lebanon which was scheduled to take place today.

Read: IDF approves plan to attack Lebanon as Biden’s envoy meets Netanyahu after Beirut talks

On Tuesday, the same day of the video release, US envoy Hochstein – as well as US ambassador Jack Lew – had met with Netanyahu in order to brief him on talks with Lebanese officials and to discuss ways to avoid an all-out war. The meeting reportedly turned out to be a “bad” one, according to sources, as the diplomats ended up giving a harsh message to the Israeli Premier about the crisis he had ignited with his video.

Officials in the Biden administration are primarily concerned that Netanyahu’s criticism of the US would create “daylight” and a divide in their alliance, which would serve to only further hit Israel’s deterrence power in the region.

As one American official put it, “It is hard to fathom how a video like the one Netanyahu released on Tuesday helps with deterrence. There is nothing like telling Hezbollah that the US is withholding weapons from Israel, which is false, to make them feel emboldened”.

The diplomatic crisis is the latest display of the US’s growing frustration with Israel and its unwillingness to make concessions or de-escalate tensions in the region, with Washington particularly fearful that Tel Aviv will drag US forces into a direct war in Lebanon.

Read: I fear for the survival of Lebanon