Biden says spoke to Netanyahu, hopes Israel violence ending 'sooner than later'

Published May 13, 2021, 7:03 AM

by Agence-France-Presse

US President Joe Biden said Wednesday that Israel has a right to defend itself but after speaking with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu he hopes violent clashes with Palestinians will end quickly.

US President Joe Biden (Drew Angerer / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

“I had a conversation with Bibi Netanyahu not too long ago,” Biden told reporters. “My expectation and hope is that this will be closing down sooner than later, but Israel has a right to defend itself when you have thousands of rockets flying into your territory.” Biden said US diplomacy was in high gear with national security and defense staff “in constant contact with their counterparts in the Middle East — not just with the Israelis, but also with everyone from the Egyptians and the Saudis to the Emiratis.” Earlier, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that Hady Amr, the State Department official in charge of Israeli and Palestinian affairs, was leaving Wednesday to the region to urge “de-escalation of violence.” The top US diplomat also talked with Netanyahu, again pushing for both sides to step back from fighting.

Blinken “reiterated his call on all parties to de-escalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence,” said a State Department statement.

The Pentagon said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had called his Israeli counterpart, Benny Gantz, and backed Israel’s “legitimate right to defend itself and its people” while also urging steps to restore calm.

Blinken described scenes of dead Palestinian civilians, including children, as “harrowing” but defended Israel’s assault on Gaza in response to rocket fire by Hamas militants.

“I think Israel has an extra burden in trying to do everything they possibly can to avoid civilian casualties, even as it is rightfully responding in defense of its people,” Blinken said.

But the diplomat said there was a “very clear and absolute distinction between a terrorist organization, Hamas, that is indiscriminately raining down rockets — in fact, targeting civilians — and Israel’s response defending itself.” Biden’s administration earlier appealed to ally Israel to reroute a flashpoint parade in Jerusalem and prevent evictions of Palestinians in the holy city, the immediate trigger for the new round of violence.

Taking more nuance after the militantly pro-Israel administration of Donald Trump, Blinken renewed US support for the eventual creation of an independent Palestinian state.

“This violence takes us further away from that goal,” Blinken said.

“We believe Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live with safety and security and will continue to engage with Israelis, Palestinians and other regional partners to urge de-escalation and to bring calm.” In a statement, the White House said that during his call with Netanyahu, Biden “condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including against Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. He conveyed his unwavering support for Israel’s security and for Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself and its people, while protecting civilians.”

 
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