Biden Says Netanyahu's Approach to the War is a Mistake, Deepening a Rift Between the Two Allies

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) -- U.S. President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's handling of the war in Gaza a mistake and called for his government to flood the beleaguered territory with aid, ramping up pressure on Israel to reach a cease-fire and widening a rift between the two staunch allies.

Palestinians in Gaza marked a muted start to the Eid al-Fitr holiday, with parents visiting the graves of sons and daughters killed in the war. After morning prayers, Muslims often visit the resting places of loved ones during the three-day festival marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

At a cemetery in the central Gaza city of Deir al-Balah, Samahir Za'neen crouched over the tombstone of her 20-year-old son, who was killed in an airstrike in January while walking in the city. "His Eid (is) in paradise, God willing," she said.

Biden has been an outspoken supporter of Israel's war against Hamas since the militant group launched a deadly assault on Oct. 7. But in recent weeks his patience with Netanyahu has appeared to be waning and his administration has taken a more stern line with Israel, rattling the countries' decades-old alliance and deepening Israel's international isolation over the war.

The most serious disagreement has been over Israel's plans for an offensive in the southernmost Gaza city of Rafah and the rift has spiraled since, worsened by an Israeli airstrike last week on an aid convoy, which killed seven workers with the food charity World Central Kitchen, most of them foreigners. Israel said the deaths were unintentional but Biden was outraged.

Biden's comments, made in an interview that aired late Tuesday after being recorded two days after the WCK strike, highlight the differences between Israel and the U.S. over humanitarian aid to people in Gaza, where a monthslong war has led to warnings of imminent famine.

"What he's doing is a mistake. I don't agree with his approach," Biden told Spanish-language broadcaster Univision.

He was responding to being asked if Netanyahu is prioritizing his political survival over the national interest.

Biden said Israel should agree to a cease-fire, flood beleaguered Gaza with aid for the next six to eight weeks and allow other countries in the region to help distribute the aid. "It should be done now," he said.

Hunger in Gaza is overshadowing the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, a typically joyous festival during which families celebrate the end of Ramadan.

Israel halted aid deliveries to Gaza in the early days of the war, but under U.S. pressure has slowly increased trucks allowed to enter the territory. Still, aid groups have complained that supplies are not reaching desperate people quickly enough, blaming Israeli restrictions, and countries have attempted other ways to deliver them including air drops and by sea.

Israel says its has steadily ramped up aid throughout the war, opening up more entry points for trucks to enter and to reach especially hard-hit areas like northern Gaza, an early target of Israel's in the war.

Israel blames aid groups for being too slow to deliver aid once it's inside Gaza. Those groups say logistical issues and the precarious security situation -- underscored by the WCK strike -- complicate aid deliveries.

Israel and Hamas are currently engaged in talks meant to bring about a cease-fire in exchange for the release of hostages captured by Hamas and others who stormed across the border on Oct. 7. But the sides remain far apart on key issues, including the return of Palestinians to hard-hit northern Gaza. Netanyahu's Security Cabinet met late Tuesday to discuss the hostage negotiations, but did not appear to make any decisions.

Netanyahu has vowed to achieve "total victory" in the war, pledging to destroy Hamas' military and governing capabilities to prevent a repeat of the Oct. 7 attacks and to return the hostages. He says that victory must include an offensive in Rafah, which Israel says is Hamas' last major stronghold, but more than half of Gaza's 2.3 million people are currently seeking shelter there.

Six months into the war, Israel is growing ever more isolated, with even its closest partner increasingly vocal about its discontent in the war's direction and longtime trading partners like Turkey taking potentially painful economic steps to express dismay.

Netanyahu, who is on trial for alleged corruption, is under pressure to decide on a postwar vision for Gaza. But critics say he is delaying because he doesn't want to anger his ultranationalist governing partners, who support resettling the Gaza Strip, which Israel withdrew from in 2005 and an idea Netanyahu has ruled out.

Netanyahu's governing partners also oppose making significant concessions to Hamas in the ongoing negotiations. They have threatened to exit the government -- a step that would cause the ruling coalition to collapse and trigger new elections.

"If the prime minister thinks that there's going to be a reckless deal here, it isn't going to pass," Limor Sonn Har Melech, a lawmaker in the hard-line Jewish Power party, said in an interview to an Israeli radio station. "If we realize that the meaning of stopping this war is capitulation to Hamas, we won't be there."

Israel launched the war in response to Hamas' cross-border assault, where militants killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took roughly 250 people hostage, according to Israeli authorities.

More than 33,200 Palestinians have been killed in the relentless fighting, according to Gaza's Health Ministry which doesn't differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count but says most of the dead are women and children. Israel says it has killed some 12,000 militants, without providing evidence.

The war has ignited a humanitarian catastrophe. Most of the territory's population has been displaced and with vast swaths of Gaza's urban landscape levelled in the fighting, many areas are uninhabitable.