At a moment the whole region threatens to erupt, and as mass protests have continued across Arab capitals and in many other parts of the world, President Joe Biden arrived in Israel Wednesday pledging unwavering US support for Israel.
Breaking from other allies like France’s Macron (and some Europeans), who appeared to condemn Israel for the deadly al-Ahli Baptist Hospital bombing, Biden instead during his first meeting with Netanyahu since the crisis began sided with Israel’s narrative of events. “Based on what I have seen, it was done by the other team, not you,” Biden said.
“But there’s a lot of people out there who are not sure. So we’ve got to overcome a lot of things,” he added. The Israelis had the day prior emphasized they had shared their case, including intelligence they say they possess, with the Americans as Biden was en route in Air Force One to Tel Aviv.
Likely Biden’s comments were enough for now to satisfy the Israelis, who are under growing international pressure given the massive death toll of at least 200-300 Gazans at the hospital, many of them women and children; however, the “other team” reference is somewhat awkward a response – as it doesn’t directly name Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) or Hamas.
Later in the day, in a meeting with Netanyahu which also included members of his war cabinet in Tel Aviv, Biden as expected pledged that “We will continue to have Israel’s back as you work to defend your people.”
“We’ll continue to work with you and partners across the region to prevent more tragedy to innocent civilians,” said, and described the Oct.7 Hamas cross-border raid as “brutal, inhuman, almost beyond belief.”
Netanyahu then spoke of “this terrible, double-war crime against humanity” — in reference Israel’s claims that Gaza’s militant factions killed the hundreds of Palestinians at the hospital. Israel’s version of events is that an errant missile fired by the PIJ faction struck the hospital.
“While Israel seeks to minimize civilian casualties, Hamas seeks to maximize civilian casualties,” Netanyahu said. “Hamas wants to kill as many Israelis as possible and has no regard whatsoever to Palestinian lives – every day they perpetrate a double war crime, targeting our civilians while hiding behind their civilians, embedding themselves in the civilian population and using them as human shields.”
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has released what it says is evidence, in the form of intercepted communications, that it wasn’t Israel behind the attack:
Islamic Jihad struck a Hospital in Gaza—the IDF did not.
Listen to the terrorists as they realize this themselves: pic.twitter.com/u7WyU8Rxwz
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) October 18, 2023
“We saw the cost of this terrible war crime yesterday, when a rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists misfired and landed on a Palestinian hospital,” Netanayahu continued in his meeting with Biden. “The entire world was rightfully outraged – but this outrage should be directed not at Israel, but at the terrorists. As we proceed in this war, Israel will do everything it can to keep civilians out of harm’s way.”
Netanyahu further said “the civilized world must unite to defeat Hamas” and that “we will defeat Hamas and remove this terrible threat from our lives.”
After Arab leaders, including King Abdullah and Egypt’s Sisi, canceled planned meetings with Biden, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a phone call with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas – who had also refused to meet with Biden. A readout said Blinken called “to express profound condolences for the civilian lives lost in the explosion at the Al-Ahli Anglican hospital in Gaza City.”
“The Secretary expressed continuing U.S. support for the Palestinian people, stressing that Hamas terrorists do not represent Palestinians or their legitimate aspirations for self-determination and equal measures of dignity, freedom, security, and justice,” the readout published Wednesday said.
As for the hospital massacre, it remains that no foreign investigators or even for the most part foreign journalists have access to the site at this point. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz while in Egypt meeting with Sisi has called for a “thorough investigation” into the attack, saying “we still do not know exactly what happened.”