President Joe Biden said on Monday afternoon that he planned to hold talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu soon, the third conversation between the two men in six days.
When asked if he would insist on a ceasefire, Biden said he would be able to speak more about the issue after his phone call.
Biden spoke on Saturday with Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority. Readings of the White House appeals indicated that Biden had raised the issue of civilian casualties.
Speaking on Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said it would not be “constructive” for the White House to reveal all aspects of Biden’s conversations. Instead, she said the United States was working through “silent and intensive” diplomacy to end the violence.
“Our goal, our goal, every action we take, every statement we make, is aimed at reducing violence and ending conflict on the ground,” she said.
“There are times in diplomacy when we need to keep these conversations calmer, we won’t read all of the material,” she continued. “But that’s the goal, it’s the prism through which every action and every comment is made.”
So far, Biden has remained adamant that Israel has the right to defend against Hamas rocket attacks. The last time he addressed the situation in public, Biden said he didn’t think Israel was overreacting by hitting Gaza with airstrikes.
Psaki won’t say if his assessment has since changed.
Now, as Israel signals that the violence will continue into a second week, Democrats in Washington are asking Biden to say more. More than 25 Democratic senators, led by Georgian Senator Jon Ossoff, issued a joint statement calling for an immediate ceasefire in Israel and the Palestinian territories to “prevent further loss of life and further escalation violence”.
The statement signaled growing concern in Congress over escalating violence in the Middle East. Other Democrats have also called for more vigorous action by the administration to achieve a truce.
Biden has so far shown few signs that he is bending to pressure from his party. A longtime supporter of Israel, his policies do not appear to change even as progressives in his party push for stronger condemnation of Israel.
Asked about Biden’s message to fellow Democrats who berated him for not condemning Israeli actions, Psaki said that “sometimes you have to step away from politics for a while.”
“It’s not easy to do,” she says. “We recognize and agree that looking at the lost lives of Palestinian children, of these families, the fear that you see in the eyes of the Israeli people, is heartbreaking. It is heartbreaking.”
In addition to stopping before calling for a ceasefire, the President has not spoken publicly about the violence since last week.
Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, is on an independent trip to northern Europe. He told a press conference in Copenhagen with his Danish counterpart that the United States was working “intensively” behind the scenes to end violence in the Middle East.
“We are ready to lend our support if the parties seek a ceasefire. We will continue to conduct intensive diplomacy to end this current cycle of violence,” Blinken said. “Then we will immediately resume the work, the vital work, of realizing Israel’s vision for the Palestinian state, existing peacefully side by side with people from all communities capable of living in dignity.”
Blinken said on Monday that the United States had requested information on the bombing but had “seen no information provided”. Netanyahu said on CBS’s “Face The Nation” that “we share all of this information with our American friends.”
“I will leave it to others to determine whether any information has been shared and our assessment of that information,” he said.
U.S. officials have said the next 72 hours will prove crucial in determining whether more pressure is needed on the parties to end the violence. The administration’s envoy to the region, Deputy Under Secretary for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr, described his tenure during a White House event marking the end of Ramadan on Sunday.
“Tonight I am in Jerusalem, having been invited by President Biden to embark on a determined effort to end the ongoing violence in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel and to achieve lasting calm,” he said. he said.
Amr arrived in Israel over the weekend and is expected to meet with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials. The United States does not engage directly with Hamas, which it considers a terrorist organization. Instead, US officials say they hope countries that have influence over Hamas will play a central role in negotiating the peace.
Biden has yet to appoint a special envoy or US ambassador to Israel, although a candidate ambassador is expected within the next two weeks.
In his own remarks at the Eid Sunday event, Biden made only a passing reference to the situation.
“We also believe that Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live in safety and security, and to enjoy the same measure of freedom, prosperity and democracy,” Biden said in pre-recorded remarks. “And my administration will continue to urge the Palestinians and the Israelis and other regional partners to work for lasting calm.”
Protests in support of Palestinians in Gaza formed on Sunday in cities across the United States, including the Detroit metro area, which is home to the United States’ largest Arab American population. Protests took place throughout the weekend, including Sunday in Dearborn, where Biden is due to visit a Ford factory to showcase the new F-150 electric vehicle on Tuesday.
Thousands of protesters flocked to the event, according to local media and social media, where a direct warning was given to Biden.
“Tuesday, he will be there,” said a leader of the protest. “We have heard from him; he will hear from us.”