Apr 3, 2024 - World

White House temperature is "very high" ahead of Biden-Bibi call

US President Joe Biden (L), sits with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the start of the Israeli war cabinet meeting, in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023

U.S. President Joe Biden (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on Oct. 18, 2023. Photo: Miriam Alster/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden's phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu planned for Thursday morning is expected to be tense as Biden is "outraged" about the killing of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers in an Israeli air strike in Gaza earlier this week, four U.S. officials said.

Why it matters: Chef José Andrés, who established the organization, is not only a highly respected Washington personality, but also a long-time Biden supporter who the president knows personally.

  • Biden's call to Andrés this week after the Israeli strike killed the World Central Kitchen (WCK) workers was a personally difficult moment for the president, one U.S. official said.

What they're saying: "Biden is pissed. The temperature regarding Bibi is very high," one U.S. official said.

  • A second U.S. official confirmed that is the atmosphere at the White House ahead of the call with Netanyahu.
  • "I think you could sense the frustration in that statement yesterday," White House spokesman John Kirby said in a briefing with reporters on Wednesday, referring to Biden's statement saying Israel hasn't done enough to protect civilians and aid workers in Gaza.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin "expressed his outrage at the Israeli strike" on the WCK aid convoy in a call Wednesday with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, according to a readout from the Pentagon.

  • Austin also "stressed the need to immediately take concrete steps to protect aid workers and Palestinian civilians in Gaza after repeated coordination failures with foreign aid groups."
  • At least 203 aid workers have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the Aid Worker Security Database.

The big picture: Both U.S. and Israeli officials told Axios they are highly concerned the deadly attack will erase recent initial progress made in improving the flow of aid into Gaza and exacerbate the humanitarian crisis.

  • WCK, the United Nations and other groups have suspended some or all of their aid operations in Gaza.
  • The "tragedy makes it more difficult to flood the zone with humanitarian assistance, as Israeli officials have stated they seek to do," Austin told Gallant.
  • Austin added there is a "need to see a rapid increase of aid coming through all crossings in the coming days, particularly to communities in northern Gaza that are at risk of famine."
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