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Biden’s frustrations with Netanyahu ‘meaningless’ without action: Analysts

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Biden’s frustrations with Netanyahu ‘meaningless’ without action: Analysts

Joe Biden is getting frustrated with Israel.

That is what unnamed sources have been telling media outlets in the United States, as the president faces widespread condemnation over his support for Israel’s war in Gaza.

But as Israel presses on with its military campaign, Biden is nearing “a breach” with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, The Washington Post said on Sunday. And he has increasingly voiced anger towards the far-right Israeli leader, even calling him an a**hole on a few recent occasions, NBC News reported on Monday morning.

Yet, despite Biden’s supposed frustrations, analysts say the US president’s comments behind closed doors mean little if he remains unwilling to exert pressure on Israel to end its deadly military offensive in Gaza.

“For anyone with even a shred of conscience, Israel’s war should elicit frustration and anger. But in Biden’s case, it has not yet forced him to issue an absolutely necessary call for a ceasefire that can spare Palestinian lives,” said Imad Harb, the director of research and analysis at the Arab Cente Washington DC.

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“Unfortunately, and despite the fact that the United States has many tools of pressure that it can use to change Israel’s policies and behavior, it is Israel that is in the driver’s seat,” he told Al Jazeera in an email.

Deadly Israeli attacks on Rafah

The reports about Biden’s growing frustrations with Netanyahu come as the United Nations and human rights groups have raised alarm over an expected Israeli ground offensive in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza.

Israel bombarded the densely populated city in the early hours of Monday, killing at least 67 Palestinians, including children.

Previously designated as a “safe zone” by Israel, Rafah is now home to more than 1.4 million people, many of whom are internally displaced from other parts of Gaza and have been sleeping in tents.

The strikes — which Israel said were carried out as part of an operation to free two Israeli captives — came less than 24 hours after Biden spoke with Netanyahu about the planned Rafah offensive.

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The Israeli military operation should not proceed without “a credible and executable plan for ensuring the safety of and support for the more than one million people sheltering there”, Biden told the Israeli leader, according to a White House readout of Sunday’s talks.

Tariq Kenney-Shawa, a US policy fellow at Palestinian think tank Al-Shabaka, said Biden’s call with Netanyahu “was a green light” for the deadly overnight bombings.

“Biden’s harsh words for Netanyahu, if he even really said them, are nothing more than words. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is policy, and Biden’s policy has been unconditional support of Israel every step of the way,” Kenney-Shawa told Al Jazeera.

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Iman Abid-Thompson, the director of advocacy and organising at the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, said Biden and his administration have been “cowardly” because they have voiced most of their criticisms behind the scenes.

Those criticisms, she said, “should be said at the forefront. They should be said out loud. They should be understood by the public and seen in formal statements.”

Abid-Thompson told Al Jazeera that Israel has been emboldened by the lack of pressure from the US, which provides the Israeli government with at least $3.8bn in military aid annually. She dismissed the idea that the US may be unable to rein in Israel’s military campaign.

“I think this idea of ‘What can we do?’ is just an absolute joke,” she said. “There is a lot to say about the lack of responsibility that the United States has taken in what has been happening to Palestinians, specifically by the Israeli government.”

Referring to Israel’s military campaign, she added: “We know that it’s only been upheld and it’s been strengthened because of the funding that the United States has provided unconditionally to Israel.”

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Ways to exert pressure

Asked on Monday whether the Biden administration would consider cutting aid to Israel if it presses ahead with its plans in Rafah, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Washington “has pursued the policy that we think gives us the maximum ability to be successful in influencing how Israel conducts its military campaign”.

Miller told reporters that, “in many cases”, the administration has been unhappy with the results. But Washington has not assessed whether cutting aid “would be more impactful than the steps that we have already taken”, he said.

“I think that sometimes people pretend that the United States of America has a magic wand that it can wave to make any situation in the world roll out in exactly the way that we would want it to, and that is never the case,” Miller also said during the news conference.

“We use the tools that are available to try to influence policy.”

At a subsequent press conference, White House spokesman John Kirby echoed Miller’s stance. When asked if Biden had ever threatened to strip US military aid ahead of the anticipated Rafah offensive, he responded with a general statement of support for Israel.

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“We’re going to continue to support Israel,” Kirby said. “They have a right to defend themselves against Hamas and we’re going to continue to make sure they have the tools and the capabilities to do that.”

But experts say the US could exert pressure on Israel by simply following its own laws. This includes applying the so-called Leahy Law, which prohibits the US government from providing military aid to foreign countries committing human rights abuses.

“Biden’s reported frustration is meaningless unless he ties it to concrete, tangible pressure on Netanyahu and the Israeli government as a whole,” said Kenney-Shawa. But, he added, Washington has instead “taken every step to minimise the cost of Israel’s assault”.

‘Moment of truth’

Since the Gaza war began, the Biden administration has approved weapons transfers to Israel despite concerns about alleged war crimes and the risk of genocide unfolding in the Palestinian territory.

It also has backed legislation that would provide more than $14bn in additional US security assistance to the country, refused to call for a long-term Gaza ceasefire and blocked attempts at the UN to end the war.

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Raed Jarrar, the advocacy director at Democracy for the Arab World Now, a think tank in Washington, DC, said the administration “has failed miserably in managing the relationship” with Netanyahu.

But Washington can “redeem itself”, Jarrar told Al Jazeera, if it takes decisive action to prevent what he described as “the next chapter of genocide” in Gaza: the expected Israeli military offensive in Rafah.

“This week will actually be the moment of truth. What are they going to do when Netanyahu does not listen to them and goes ahead with the attack on Rafah? What are they going to do?” he asked.

“Are they going to continue the same failed policy, or are they going to switch to the only option that they should have considered all along, which is not aligning themselves with a genocidal maniac?”

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TVLine Items: Tattooist of Auschwitz Trailer, Eva Longoria Joins Only Murders and More

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TVLine Items: Tattooist of Auschwitz Trailer, Eva Longoria Joins Only Murders and More


‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’ Release Date, Trailer for Peacock Series – TVLine



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Zelenskyy appeals to Trump, Congress to see 'tragedy' of Russia invasion in exclusive Bret Baier interview

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Zelenskyy appeals to Trump, Congress to see 'tragedy' of Russia invasion in exclusive Bret Baier interview

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in an exclusive FOX News interview, appealed to President Biden and Republican front-runner Donald Trump to visit Ukraine and see for themselves at the front lines of “this tragedy.”

“I’m happy to see all the candidates and all the people who are decision-makers or can support not to be against just to understand what the war in Ukraine means,” Zelenskyy told FOX News chief political anchor and executive editor of “Special Report” Bret Baier. 

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“Who opened this war, who began it, and what’s going on, what’s around,” Zelenskyy said. “What brilliant Ukraine we had. We have [a] beautiful country, but in the war it’s another picture and other lives,” adding that the candidates should “Come see people, just to see them on the streets.” 

Baier met with Zelenskyy near the front lines in Kharkiv, just a few kilometers from heavy fighting. Distant artillery shots and explosions peppered the background of the interview and throughout the morning as the team set up for the interview. 

ZELENSKYY PRAISES ‘HEROIC’ SOLDIERS IN PREVIEW OF BRET BAIER’S EXCLUSIVE FOX NEWS INTERVIEW: ‘NO PLAN B’

Zelenskyy underscored the value of hosting the interview in such a precarious location, saying, “It’s very important for me, like I said before we started … the United States [needs] to see different war in the capital and here closer to [the] front line.” 

Baier confronted Zelenskyy with Trump’s famous quote in which he claimed that he would end the war in 24 hours, which the Ukrainian president still “can’t understand how” Trump would achieve such a feat. 

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks with Fox News chief political anchor Bret Baier in a hospital in Kharkiv after visiting wounded soldiers and awarding them medals for their service.  (Special Report with Bret Baier)

“He can’t solve this problem, this tragedy with me,” Zelenskyy said. He said he would host the former President on the frontlines where he “will explain everything, and he will explain what his thoughts, maybe he has some ideas. I don’t know.” 

He continued, “he will see what’s going on, and after that, I think he will change his mind, and we all understood that there is no two sides of this war: There is only one enemy, and this is the position of Putin,” Zelenskyy insisted. 

ICONIC FORMER POLISH PRESIDENT MESSAGE TO LAWMAKERS ON UKRAINE: ‘IF WE DON’T ACT NOW, WE WILL LOSE’

Zelenskyy agreed that the Russian people could create change within their country and remove Putin, but that task remains a long and difficult road, particularly as “Putin is afraid only of strong, and he’s not accepting any weakness,” which means that Ukraine must be “strong on the battlefield, prevent [Russia] from occupying anything.” 

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“His positions will be weaker if with more and more casualties, the people in Russia will see those doubts that will be against this war,” Zelenskyy explained. “This wave is something that we need.”

When asked about the losses his forces have suffered, Zelenskyy remained vague, citing “tens of thousands” but spinning the losses as fewer than Russia has suffered, claiming – and yet to be verified – that Russia loses five soldiers for every one Ukrainian soldier killed. 

BOYFRIEND OF BALLERINA DETAINED IN RUSSIA SAYS IT ‘MAKES ME HOPEFUL THAT AMERICA’S FIGHTING FOR HER’

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense has estimated that Russia has lost more than 400,000 troops. Those losses have amounted to small gains since the start of the war, with Russia only succeeding in taking the city of Avdiivka near Donetsk. 

Russia has experienced a roller coaster year, starting with the embarrassing rebellion of mercenary warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin – who later died when his plane spontaneously exploded – before spending months stymying Ukraine’s much-touted counteroffensive. Putin grew so confident that he ended the U.N.-brokered grain deal.

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Baier Zelenskyy

FOX News anchor Bret Baier will interview Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy on Thursday. (Fox News)

Ukraine turned around those failures and finished out the year with significant wins over Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which allowed Kyiv to create a new grain corridor and forced Putin to replace his naval command. 

“You remember and you remind today that those days of the war, nobody in the world really believed that we will do it,” Zelenskyy told Baier. “Today, sometimes we have – and also in Congress … we have good relations because we met a lot of time, [and] they say, “When? When we will finish the war? When we will win? Why so slowly?”

IRAN DELIVERS HUNDREDS OF BALLISTIC MISSILES TO RUSSIA AS UKRAINIAN DEFENSE FALTERS

The effort to continue the support from the U.S. Congress and other Western allies remains, and also to convince several holdouts in Congress including Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio.; Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo.; and Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala.; all who have spoken against continued support for Ukraine. 

Vance has argued that he sees little sense in “unlimited, unaccounted-for aid to Ukraine without any goals in mind,” while Tuberville found it difficult to continue “paying Ukrainian farmers” after “we just punted the farm bill for American farmers [to] next year.” 

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Asked about his message to Congress, Zelenskyy said he was thankful for everything the president and Congress have done. “My message is, if they want to be very pragmatic, the price, we are asking now to support, this price is less than it will be in the future … They will pay much more, much more. We just want to live, to survive. We don’t have alternative.”

He continued, “Congressman, just people with their families, with their children. And I think they understand that we are just trying to save our houses with children and just say that if you think that we are fighting for the common values, so let that help us and let’s support, let’s be in unity.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy looking at battleground plans with military leaders

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, second left, looks at a map during his visit to the Ukrainian 110th mechanized brigade in Avdiivka, the site of fierce battles with the Russian troops in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Dec. 29, 2023 (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Zelenskyy responded to criticisms over corruption and reports that he canceled the country’s elections, saying that he never canceled them, noting that during wartime there was a law in place that didn’t allow them to run them. He also said, given his present popularity and were there an election today he would be reelected by the people.

On American fears of corruption in Ukraine, Zelenskyy said that, “everything is clean,” noting that they followed the reforms demanded by the European Union but he also said it was hard to put in new “difficult anti-corruption reforms,” during wartime while stating E.U. leaders had signed off on Ukraine’s transparency.

Bakmut fighting

Ukrainian soldiers fire a cannon near Bakhmut, an eastern city where fierce battles against Russian forces have been taking place, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, May 15, 2023. For months, Western allies have shipped billions of dollars worth of weapons systems and ammunition to Ukraine with an urgency to get the supplies to Kyiv in time for an anticipated spring counteroffensive. Now summer is just weeks away. While Russia and Ukraine are focused on an intense battle for Bakhmut, the Ukrainian spring offensive has yet to begin. (AP Photo/Libkos)

Zelenskyy continues to insist that without aid from the West, Ukraine will not be able to maintain its defense but also to improve the strength of the country’s economy and stability, which could in turn allow the country to ramp up production of its own weapons again. Particularly, Kyiv needs “strong weapons, long-distance weapons, long-distance missiles and artillery.” 

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“It’s not about the types, with the production,” Zelenskyy clarified. “Increasing it each day, yes, and air defense just to defend people to give possibility, economy to increase it means give possibility of security situation.”

PRESSURE GROWS ON JOHNSON TO MAKE MOVE ON UKRAINE AID AS RUSSIAN INVASION NEARS 2-YEAR MARK

“If people, Ukrainians, will come back the economy will increase,” he continued. “A lot of jobs, a lot of taxes, so, I mean, this is to be more strong and of course, to push them as much as possible, to push them. And in this position, in the strong position, we found one very important diplomatic route. It’s a document. When it will be ready, it doesn’t matter where it will stay.”

“At this time, what I wanted to say, it doesn’t matter,” he insisted. “It will be strong. In all the cases I set and if we will have the document with the most big countries, important countries, decisionmakers in the world on our side, of course, we can find a political negotiation.”

Brett Baier Kharkiv

Fox News chief political anchor and executive editor of Special Report Bret Baier speaks from Kharkiv ahead of airing his multi-part interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.  (Special Report with Bret Baier)

The question of a diplomatic resolution has hit a new stumbling block after a recent interview in which Putin claimed Zelenskyy had signed a decree forbidding negotiations with Russia, insisting that Moscow has “never refused” to negotiate.

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After saying he did not need to hear more than two hours of “bull—-” about Ukraine, Zelenskyy blasted Putin’s claims and dismissed him as an untrustworthy person: He recalled that French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz both received assurances from Putin that Russia would not occupy Ukraine. 

He also belittled Putin’s insistence that Russia had no interest in going to Poland, Latvia or “anywhere else,” adding that people around Putin have said he’s “not willing to stop until they reach their goals.”  

At one stage of the interview, Baier asked Zelenskyy about attempts made against the Ukrainian president’s life. Zelennskyy said that after the fifth attempt it was “not interesting for me now.”

Asked when he thought the war would end after nearly two years of intensive fighting, Zelenskyy said that “The world is not really ready for Putin to be able to lose his power. The world is afraid of changes in Russian Federation. The United States and the European countries and the global South can choose. 

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Zelenskyy had this warning, “Putin has broken all the red lines. He’s an inadequate person, that he was a threat to the whole world, that he will destroy NATO. And he will try to do that. So when the world will understand that, okay, that’s it. So in this moment, the war will end.” 

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US, European powers back outgoing Dutch PM Mark Rutte as next NATO head

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US, European powers back outgoing Dutch PM Mark Rutte as next NATO head

Support of top NATO powers makes Rutte favourite to succeed current Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in October.

The United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany have all thrown their weight behind outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to become NATO’s next secretary general, at a crucial time for the alliance as Russia’s war against Ukraine rages on.

Top NATO powers on Thursday backed Rutte to succeed current chair Jens Stoltenberg when he steps down in October, putting him in a strong position to win the leadership of the transatlantic alliance.

Stoltenberg’s successor will take office at a crucial juncture, tasked with sustaining NATO members’ support for Ukraine’s costly defence while guarding against any escalation that would draw the alliance directly into a war with Moscow.

“The United States has made it clear to our allies, our NATO allies, that we believe Mr Rutte would be an excellent secretary general for NATO,” US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told journalists on Thursday.

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UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman said the UK “does strongly back” Rutte, adding that the UK wanted a candidate who would “keep NATO strong and deliver on the alliance’s NATO 2030 vision”.

The British Foreign Office also said Rutte was a well-respected figure across NATO, with serious defence and security credentials and who would ensure it remained strong and prepared for any need to defend itself.

A senior French official told the Reuters news agency that President Emmanuel Macron had been an early supporter of putting Rutte in the role. And German government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit said on X that Rutte had Berlin’s backing, praising him as “an outstanding candidate”.

Diplomats have said Rutte is the only official candidate for the post in the behind-the-scenes contest, although some said the name of Romanian President Klaus Iohannis had also been floated in informal discussions recently. Other candidates may include Estonian Primer Minister Kaja Kallas and Latvia’s foreign minister, Krisjanis Karins.

But with the support of Washington – the alliance’s predominant power – and the three big European nations and some 16 other NATO members, according to diplomats, Rutte is in a commanding position.

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However, some analysts believe he could face opposition from Turkey and Hungary.

‘Interesting’ job

After ruling himself out for the NATO post in previous years, Rutte, 57, told Dutch media in October that running the military alliance was a “very interesting” job and he would be open to the prospect.

The Netherlands’ longest-serving leader, Rutte has had good relationships with various British, European Union and US leaders – including Donald Trump – during his tenure.

Set to run for a second term as US president later this year, Trump drew fierce criticism from Western officials earlier this month for calling into question his commitment to defending NATO allies if re-elected.

At the weekend, Rutte urged European leaders to “stop moaning and whining and nagging” about Trump and focus instead on what they could do to bolster defence and help Ukraine.

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Founded in 1949 to counter the Soviet Union during the Cold War, NATO is a political and military alliance of countries from North America and Europe.

NATO leaders are appointed by consensus, meaning all members must consent to a final decision. The alliance currently has 31 members, with Sweden poised to join soon.

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