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Biden has run out of patience with Netanyahu – and what might be coordinated move on Gaza might just work | World News

President Joe Biden checks his watch before delivering remarks on the verdict in former President Donald Trump's hush money trial and on the Middle East, from the State Dining Room of the White House, Friday, May 31, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

If Joe Biden’s statement tonight was coordinated with the Israeli government, it’s unclear who with. 

One source close to the Israeli prime minister told me the US president had “all but killed a deal”, while another said that the two leaders hadn’t spoken before the president’s announcement.

So what’s happening then?

Israel-Gaza latest:
Biden makes surprise announcement

I think Washington has run out of patience with Benjamin Netanyahu.

While they have publicly supported recent Israeli manoeuvres inside Rafah, or at least not criticised them, Mr Netanyahu’s decision to crack on was a clear snub to the White House – which had repeatedly warned against such action.

FILE - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a press conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel on Oct. 28, 2023. Top Israeli officials are accused of seven war crimes and crimes against humanity by the ICC. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP, File)
Pic: AP

Can it be a coincidence Mr Biden’s statement came a day after Israel had taken control of the Philadelphi Corridor between Gaza and Egypt and on the same day Israeli troops officially entered central Rafah city?

We should also note the international outrage following the killing of 45 people in Rafah last Sunday, the break-up of the much-anticipated US naval pier under rough seas after delivering little aid, and negotiations to reopen the Rafah crossing making little progress.

US diplomats in Israel tell me they are infuriated that the Israeli administration has repeatedly ignored them, and the White House has been looking for an opportunity to wrestle back some control.

Senior Israeli military officials have said that Hamas has been degraded sufficiently that if there was a ceasefire now they could manage it, and many soldiers resent the lack of a political deal in Gaza that has meant returning to fight in areas they had already cleared.

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Biden outlines Israel-Gaza peace plan

Could Biden team be talking to a Netanyahu rival?

Behind the scenes, the Biden team has been talking regularly to Netanyahu’s political rival Benny Gantz, viewing him as a sensible head and possible future leader.

Gantz has threatened to leave the War Cabinet by next Saturday, 8 June, if Netanyahu doesn’t deliver on six demands laid down, including progress on hostage releases – and so it’s not unthinkable that there has been collaboration between Biden and Gantz’s team on this.

The rationale would be to isolate Netanyahu – find a deal agreeable to Hamas, Gantz, Washington, Cairo and Doha and portray Bibi as the sole objector.

David Cameron’s tweet in support of Biden’s statement – at 7.42pm on a Friday evening – didn’t strike me as coincidental.

Support from former American president Barack Obama also followed.

Perhaps this is a coordinated move.

Read more:
Rafah is ‘hell on earth’, UN chief says
Why deadly strike on Rafah could be a turning point

Privately, figures close to Netanyahu are telling me they are angry and unsure why Biden has made this statement at this time.

But for me, the most telling sentence from Biden was: “It’s time for this war to end.”

The US president seems to have had enough.

Will it bring about the end? I wouldn’t be so sure.

As one Bibi loyalist told me: “He (Biden) has been wrong on all of his predictions so far, and he is wrong on this.”

This is a Hail Mary pass by Joe Biden, for sure, but there are splits in the Israeli cabinet, and it could just land.

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