Speaking at the White House, Biden said he did not detect a disproportionate response to Hamas’ rocket attacks from Israel, which has launched airstrikes in Gaza that have so far killed at least 87 people, including 18 children and eight women, according to the Gaza-based Palestinian Health Ministry.
Later, press secretary Jen Psaki declined to say whether Biden pressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the growing Palestinian civilian death toll in a telephone conversation on Wednesday.
“In our view, attacks from Hamas into civilian neighborhoods is not self defense, so he certainly reiterated that, but also reiterated the need to move to de-escalate the situation on the ground,” she said.
Behind the scenes, officials have been more forceful with their Israeli counterparts, including urging against evicting Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem, according to officials familiar with the matter. And a readout of Biden’s phone call with Netanyahu said he “shared his conviction that Jerusalem, a city of such importance to people of faith from around the world, must be a place of peace.”
But in his public statements on the crisis, Biden has hewed toward staunch support for Israel, despite calls from within his own party to adopt a tougher stance.
“One of the things that I have seen, thus far, is that there has not been a significant overreaction. The question is, how we get to a point where — they get to a point where there is a significant reduction in the attacks, particularly the rocket attacks that are indiscriminately fired into population centers,” Biden said at the White House when asked whether Netanyahu is doing enough to stop violence from escalating.
His answer reflected the longstanding view of both Republicans and Democrats that Israel has a right to defend itself against attacks from Hamas, which the US considers a terror organization. A day earlier, Biden told reporters Israel “has a right to defend itself when you have thousands of rockets flying into your territory.”
Biden has only spoken publicly about the increasing Middle East violence when questioned at the end of events. Officials said they believe he can play a more productive role in private discussions, including with Netanyahu, than in making public statements.
But officials are also mindful of the delicate — and somewhat new — political pressures Biden is facing on the matter. Though he has been versed in this issue for decades as a senator leading the Senate Foreign
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