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Biden and Netanyahu speak for 1st time since Israeli airstrikes killed 7 aid workers

Biden "emphasized that the strikes on humanitarian workers and the overall humanitarian situation are unacceptable."

President Biden spoke by phone Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the first conversation between the two leaders since Israeli airstrikes killed seven humanitarian aid workers in Gaza, and pressured Israel to implement a ceasefire agreement.

The call comes at a time of growing U.S. disapproval of Israel’s handling of the war against Hamas fighters in Gaza that followed the militant group’s attack inside Israel on Oct. 7, which killed nearly 1,200 people. Israel’s military response has killed tens of thousands of civilians in Gaza.

Biden: Israel needs to implement concrete steps to address suffering

In a readout of the call, the White House said that Biden “emphasized that the strikes on humanitarian workers and the overall humanitarian situation are unacceptable.”

“He made clear the need for Israel to announce and implement a series of specific, concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers,” the readout stated. “He made clear that U.S. policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel’s immediate action on these steps.”

Biden also called for Netanyahu to reach a ceasefire deal “without delay” in Gaza. The White House added the two leaders also “discussed public Iranian threats against Israel and the Israeli people,” noting the U.S. supports Israel regarding those threats.

Biden ‘outraged and heartbroken’ by Israeli airstrikes

In a statement released Tuesday, Biden publicly expressed his displeasure with Monday’s airstrikes that killed seven World Central Kitchen aid workers as they were traveling in a convoy attempting to deliver food to Palestinians in Gaza.

“Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians,” Biden said.

At a press briefing Wednesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden was “outraged and heartbroken” by the deaths of the aid workers.

Palestinians walk through the destruction left by the Israeli air and ground offensive on the Gaza Strip near Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Monday, April 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Mohammed Hajjar)
Destruction left by an Israeli air and ground offensive in Gaza City on April 1. (Mohammed Hajjar/AP)

But U.S. weapons continue to flow to Israel

Despite the Biden administration’s souring tone with Netanyahu over the war, the U.S. continues to send Israel the weapons it is using to carry it out.

On Monday, the same day Israel launched the airstrikes that killed the aid workers, the U.S. approved the transfer of thousands more bombs to the Israeli government, Reuters reported.

In March, Israel offered the U.S. assurances that the weaponry sent from Washington would not be used to violate humanitarian laws in Gaza.

Declining U.S. support for Israel

A Gallup poll released last week found that support for the military action taken by Israel in Gaza has dropped significantly in recent months.

In November, 50% of U.S. adults supported Israel’s military action in Gaza. In March, just 36% did.

Some Democrats in Congress have been ramping up pressure on Biden to compel Israel to change course in its execution of the war.

In March, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer made headlines by calling Netanyahu an “obstacle to peace” and calling for new Israeli elections. Biden praised Schumer for that speech.

Since then, a growing number of Democrats have begun demanding that the U.S. tie further funding to Israel with a ceasefire in Gaza.

Trump: Israel is ‘losing the PR war’

Former President Donald Trump, Biden’s main rival in the 2024 election, has also been critical of Israel’s handling of the war in Gaza.

“What I said very plainly is get it over with, and let’s get back to peace and stop killing people,” Trump said in a Thursday radio interview with Hugh Hewitt.

“They’re losing the PR war,” Trump added.

Still, Trump also said that the biggest problem for Israel is that it isn’t achieving victory against Hamas quickly enough.

“But they’ve got to finish what they started, and they’ve got to finish it fast, and we have to get on with life,” the former president added.

Cover thumbnail photo via Ronen Zvulun/Pool via Reuters, Demetrius Freeman/the Washington Post via Getty Images