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Biden walks back suggestion Netanyahu playing politics in war; Israel, US ink deal on fighter jets

Biden walks back suggestion Netanyahu playing politics in war; Israel, US ink deal on fighter jets
US President Joe Biden (left) has walked back comments hinting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) might be dragging out the conflict to cling to power. The photo is of a meeting between the two in Tel Aviv, Israel, on 18 October. (Photo: Miriam Alster / EPA-EFE / POOL)

US President Joe Biden sought to walk back his suggestion Benjamin Netanyahu may be prolonging the war in Gaza due to his own political considerations, saying he didn’t think the Israeli leader was doing so.

Israel will start receiving a fresh batch of F-35 fighter jets from the US in 2028 after the two sides finalised a deal that affirmed their close alliance despite friction over the war in Gaza.

Hamas has followed Israel in baulking at Biden’s efforts to end their war in Gaza, with both sides saying their conflicting conditions for a permanent ceasefire must be met before they’ll even agree to pause fighting.

Biden denies Netanyahu playing politics in war after hinting at it

US President Joe Biden sought to walk back his suggestion Benjamin Netanyahu may be prolonging the war in Gaza due to his own political considerations, saying he didn’t think the Israeli leader was doing so.

“I don’t think so. He’s trying to work out a serious problem he has,” Biden told reporters on Tuesday when asked if the prime minister was playing politics with the war.

Biden, in an interview published earlier on Tuesday, hinted that Netanyahu might be dragging out the conflict to cling to power and said it was “uncertain” if Israel had committed war crimes.

Asked by Time Magazine if Netanyahu’s political considerations were driving the war, Biden said, “There is every reason for people to draw that conclusion,” citing the domestic “blowback” the prime minister received ahead of the Israel-Hamas conflict by pushing to change Israel’s constitution, moves critics said would weaken democracy in the country.

“Whether he would change his position or not, it’s hard to say, but it has not been helpful,” Biden said.

Israel to get new fighter jets from US as war in Gaza grinds on

Israel will start receiving a fresh batch of F-35 fighter jets from the US in 2028 after the two sides finalised a deal that affirmed their close alliance despite friction over the war in Gaza.

Israel will get the jets, made by Lockheed Martin, at a rate of three to five per year under the terms of the $3-billion agreement, which was first announced last year and completed on Tuesday.

The deal “reflects the strength of the strategic alliance between Israel and the United States”, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said. “At a time when some of our adversaries aim to undermine our ties with our greatest ally, we only further strengthen our alliance.”

The acquisition will expand Israel’s fleet of the stealth aircraft to 75. It underscores Biden’s commitment to Israel’s defence even as concerns have grown about Israel’s prosecution of its war in Gaza against Hamas.

In a report last month, the State Department said it was “reasonable to assess” that Israel had used US weapons in a way that violated international humanitarian law. Even so, the US won’t stop the flow of weapons and bombs to a key ally, the report said.

Biden bid to end Gaza war falters as Israel and Hamas push back

Hamas has followed Israel in baulking at Biden’s efforts to end their war in Gaza, with both sides saying their conflicting conditions for a permanent ceasefire must be met before they’ll even agree to pause fighting.

A Hamas spokesman said on Tuesday that Israel must commit to a permanent ceasefire and full withdrawal from Gaza. “We are waiting for a clear Israeli stance on this,” the spokesperson, Osama Hamdan, said on Tuesday in Beirut.

That came a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed his position that the group’s political and military operations must be destroyed before the war is ended.

Top Biden administration officials have been calling on Hamas, designated a terrorist group by the US and European Union, to accept the proposal, which the president on Friday said had Israel’s backing.

That plan — a three-part roadmap to go from a ceasefire to a permanent deal — was almost immediately called into question by Israeli officials over the weekend.

The main point of disconnect appears to be the future status of Hamas, which Israel wants gone before any longer-term plans can be made for Gaza, or for any broader approach to a future Palestinian state.

The Israeli prime minister is under pressure from right-wing allies who have threatened to leave his ruling coalition if he agrees to end the war without dismantling Hamas. At the same time, more than 100,000 people demonstrated in Israel over the weekend, calling for an end to the war.

Qatar says Israel struggling to unite over Gaza peace terms

Qatari mediators looking to secure a ceasefire in Gaza say Israel hasn’t yet put forward a position that’s supported by the full coalition government, complicating efforts to halt the near eight-month war.

Hamas hadn’t given a clear reaction either to the peace plan presented by Biden on Friday, Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Majed Al-Ansari said at a briefing on Tuesday, though he added the two sides may be edging closer to a deal.

“We are waiting for a clear Israeli position that represents the entire government in response to the US’s Gaza proposal,” Al-Ansari said. “We have read and seen the contradictory statements coming in from Israeli ministers, which doesn’t give us much confidence of there being a unified position.”

Qatar, the US and Egypt have been mediating talks between Israel and Hamas for months without success, with the two sides far apart in their demands to end the war. DM

Read more in Daily Maverick: Israel-Palestine War

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