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Biden, Netanyahu On Collision Course After Gaza UN Vote


WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Wartime relations between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sank to a new low on Monday with the US allowing passage of a Gaza ceasefire resolution at the United Nations and drawing a sharp rebuke from the Israeli leader.

Netanyahu abruptly scrapped a visit to Washington this week by a senior delegation to discuss Israel’s threatened offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah after Washington abstained in a Security Council vote that demanded an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and the release of all hostages held by the Palestinian militants.

The suspension of that meeting puts a major new obstacle in the way of efforts by the U.S., concerned about a deepening humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, to get Netanyahu to consider alternatives to a ground invasion of Rafah, the last relatively safe haven for Palestinian civilians.

The threat of such an offensive has increased tensions between longtime allies the United States and Israel, and raised questions about whether the U.S. might restrict military aid if Netanyahu defies Biden and presses ahead anyway.

“This shows that trust between the Biden administration and Netanyahu may be breaking down,” said Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East negotiator for Republican and Democratic administrations. “If the crisis is not managed carefully, it’s only going to continue to worsen.”

Biden’s decision to abstain at the U.N., coming after months of mostly adhering to longtime U.S. policy of shielding Israel at the world body, appeared to reflect growing U.S. frustration with the Israeli leader.
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The president, running for re-election in November, faces pressure not just from America’s allies but from a growing number of fellow Democrats to rein in Israel’s military response to Hamas’ deadly Oct. 7 rampage in southern Israel.

Netanyahu confronts domestic challenges of his own, not least his far-right coalition members’ demands for a hard line against the Palestinians. He also must convince hostages’ families he is doing everything for their release while facing frequent protests calling for his resignation.

As Netanyahu’s office announced the cancellation of the visit, he said the failure of the U.S. to veto the resolution was a “clear retreat” from its previous position and would hurt Israel’s war efforts.