Updated Mar 18, 2024 - World

Biden and Netanyahu hold first call in a month amid public split

Biden with arm around frowning Netanyahu

Biden and Netenyahu in Tel Aviv in 2023. Photo: GPO Handout via Getty

President Biden held his first phone call in a month with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.

Why it matters: Since their last call on Feb. 15, private tensions between the two leaders over the war in Gaza have started to spill into public.

  • On Friday, Biden backed a harsh speech in which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Netanyahu had lost his way and called for a new election in Israel once the war winds down.
  • In his own recent remarks, Biden has been attempting a tricky maneuver: breaking with Netanyahu and his Gaza war strategy while sticking with Israel and its fight against Hamas.
  • During the call, Netanyahu complained about Schumer's speech and Biden's endorsement of it. "The prime minister raised his concerns about a variety of things that have come out in the U.S. press. From President Biden's perspective this is not a question of politics but policy and strategy," Sullivan said.

The other side: Netanyahu said on Monday in a meeting with AIPAC leaders in Jerusalem that he is being portrayed in the U.S. as a leader who is detached from his people and backed by fringe groups. "This is a lie," Netanyahu said.

  • Netanyahu also said Biden and U.S. officials may be right that domestic politics is interfering in policy about the war in Gaza, but asked: "on which side of the Atlantic is this happening?"

The latest: A White House spokesperson confirmed the call took place and said the leaders discussed "the latest developments in Israel and Gaza, including the situation in Rafah and efforts to surge humanitarian assistance to Gaza."

  • Netanyahu said in a statement that he and Biden had discussed "Israel's commitment to achieving all the goals" of its operation, including "making sure Gaza is not a threat" to Israel, as well as ensuring the supply of humanitarian aid.

Editor's note: This story was updated with confirmation from the White House that the call took place.

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