• By The Financial District


President Joe Biden expressed support for a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers in a call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, May 17, 2021, but stopped short of demanding an immediate stop to the eight days of Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocket barrages that have killed more than 200 people, most of them Palestinian.

Biden’s carefully worded statement, in a White House readout of his second known call to Netanyahu in three days as the attacks pounded on, came with the administration under pressure to respond more forcefully despite its determination to wrench the US foreign policy focus away from Middle East conflicts, Ellen Knickmeyer, Matthew Lee and Edith M. Lederer reported for the Associated Press (AP).

Biden’s comments on a cease-fire were open-ended, and similar to previous administration statements of support in principle for a cease-fire. That’s in contrast to demands from dozens of Democratic lawmakers and others for an immediate halt by both sides.

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But the readout of the call to the Israeli leader showed increased White House concern about the air and rocket attacks — including Israeli airstrikes aimed at weakening Hamas — while sticking to forceful support for Israel.

The US leader “encouraged Israel to make every effort to ensure the protection of innocent civilians,” the White House said in its readout.

Yet, Israel is an occupying force in Palestine and it cannot invoke self-defense in territories it holds illegally and in contravention of United Nations (UN) resolutions.

An administration official familiar with the call said the decision to express support and not explicitly demand a ceasefire was intentional.

While Biden and top aides are concerned about the mounting bloodshed and loss of innocent life, the decision not to demand an immediate halt to hostilities reflects White House determination to support Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the private deliberations.


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