Biden: Netanyahu, most of Arab world back ceasefire agreement

US President Joe Biden signified ease in tensions between himself and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the Israeli leader prepared to head to Washington next month.

In an interview with ABC in France, where he has joined the celebrations marking the 80th anniversary of D-Day, Biden was asked if Netanyahu was listening to him concerning the IDF’s military operation in Rafah.

“I think he’s listening to me,” Biden said.

“They [the IDF] were going to go into Rafah, full board, invade all of Rafah, go into the city, take it out, move with full force. They haven’t done that,” he said.

Biden spoke after months in which Rafah has been a persistent source of tension between Washington and Jerusalem. 

IDF soldiers operating in the area of Rafah, June 1, 2024. (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)

The US had warned Israel against a major military operation in Rafah akin to what happened in the north of Gaza at the start of the war. It had urged a targeted military operation instead.

Israel’s entry into Rafah at the start of May, however, with a cautious acceptance from the US, with State Department and White House spokespeople explaining that IDF actions in Rafah against Hamas battalions did not constitute a major military operation of the kind they had spoken against.

No hard feelings

Biden’s acknowledgment that Netanyahu had taken his words into consideration marks the second time in a week that he had pushed back at questions by reporters designed to portray Netanyahu in a negative light.

Earlier in the week, he clarified that he did not think Netanyahu was prolonging the Gaza war for political gain.

Biden, in his ABC interview, also stressed that Israel had agreed to a three-phased agreement that included a framework for the release of the remaining 124 hostages. 

“What they’ve done is they’ve agreed to a significant agreement,” Biden said, adding that it had the backing of Egypt, the Saudis, and almost the whole Arab world. “We’ll see, this is a very difficult time,” he said.

His statements come as Netanyahu is prepared to travel to Washington next month to address a joint session of Congress. It will be only his second trip to the US since he took office at the end of December 2022.

He was last in the US in September 2023 for the high-level opening session of the UN General Assembly, where he met with Biden on the sidelines. No such meeting has been set for this trip. Biden has yet to host Netanyahu in the White House. It’s an invitation Netanyahu has sought but has yet to receive.