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Netanyahu doubles down against US as White House expresses 'disappointment'

Analysts say the Israeli prime minister appears to be pitching himself to Republicans as he faces war with Hezbollah and dissent in the Israeli army
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day on 5 May (AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to double down on his broadside against US President Joe Biden's administration on Thursday, saying he was willing to incur "personal attacks" in order to defend Israel's existance.  

Netanyahu was referring to a video  he released this week in English accusing the Biden administration of "withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel".

"Those comments were deeply disappointing and certainly vexing to us, given the amount of support that we have and will continue to provide," US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told journalists earlier on Thursday.

The Biden administration has vociferously backed Israel's offensive on Gaza. It also welcomed a an attack on Nuseirat refugee camp in which the Israeli army recovered four captives from Hamas but killed at least 270 Palestinians in the process, according to Palestinian health officials.

But the US has been at odds with Netanyahu's government over a host of issues including a post-war plan for Gaza and civilian Palestinian casualties.

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In May, Biden announced that his administration had paused a single shipment of 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs to Israel, saying they would be used to “go after population centres” which he said is “just wrong”.

Analysts said Netanyahu’s rhetoric appeared partly aimed at the US domestic audience, as Biden squares off for a hotly contested election in November against former President Donald Trump.

On Wednesday, Netanyahu hosted a bipartisan delegation of solidly pro-Israel Republican and Democratic lawmakers, including Representatives Steny Hoyer, Greg Landsman, Steve Cohen, Jake Ellzey, Randy Feenstra, Glenn Ivey, Lucy McBath, Frank Pallone and Joe Wilson.

'Rally the base'

A member of the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, better known as Aipac, was also present at the meeting.

“The prime minister expressed appreciation for the bipartisan support for Israel and said that he hopes that the munitions issue will be resolved soon,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement after the meeting. 

“Netanyahu's comments [are] designed to play tough with Biden; rally his base... and Republicans,” Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former Middle East negotiator, said on X.

US signals to Hezbollah it will back Israeli offensive, as frustration with Gaza ceasefire grows
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Netanyahu’s rift with the Biden administration over the arms shipment comes as the US seeks to avert a full-scale war between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah.

Middle East Eye reported on Wednesday that US envoy Amos Hochstein delivered a "blunt" warning to Lebanese officials to convey to Hezbollah that it has five weeks to end fighting with Israel or risk a limited Israeli offensive that will have US backing.

With tensions in the region soaring, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan held meetings with Israeli national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and Ron Dermer, Israel's minister for strategic affairs, a close Netanyahu confidante. 

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the officials would discuss a stalled Gaza ceasefire proposal, efforts to recover more captives and the conflict in Lebanon. 

With fears of a war rising, Netanyahu also appears to be in a fight with Israel’s military which contradicted his claim on Thursday that Hamas could be eliminated in Gaza.

Netanyahu was quick to rebuff Hagari's comments, with his office saying the destruction of Hamas was one of the security cabinet's war goals, and that the military were "obligated" to execute it.

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