Apr 14, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Biden gets pushback over telling Israel to avoid counterattack on Iran

President Biden speaks in front of microphones

President Biden gives remarks on April 12 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

President Biden's decision to tell Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the U.S. won't support any Israeli counterattack against Iran was hit with a barrage of criticism Sunday from both sides of the aisle.

The big picture: The pushback — mostly spurred by Republicans — comes as Biden and his senior advisers are concerned that an Israeli response to Iran's recent attack would lead to a regional war with catastrophic consequences, Axios' Barak Ravid reports.

Catch up quick: Iran launched attack drones and missiles against Israel on Saturday night local time in retaliation for an airstrike in Syria that killed a top Iranian general.

  • White House National Security Communications Adviser John Kirby echoed Biden's stance on Sunday, telling NBC's "Meet the Press" that "the president's been very clear. We don't seek a war with Iran. We're not looking for escalation here. We will continue to help Israel defend itself."

However, Biden's stance has drawn criticism and disagreement, including from former national security adviser John Bolton.

  • Bolton said Biden is an "embarrassment to the United States" for urging the Israelis to not retaliate, per an interview on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday.
  • "This is an American interest to make sure that Iran, which is the principal threat to international peace and security in the region, is, at a minimum, put in its place, to spare Israel, to spare the Gulf Arabs, to spare us, from the threat that they pose," he said.

Zoom in: Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) also pushed back on the president, telling "State of the Union" that he doesn't agree with Biden and thinks "we should have Israel's back in this situation."

  • Fetterman added this "doesn't change anything that he's a fantastic president. I'm proud to stand with him and campaign for him and vote for him."

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) told "State of the Union" he thinks "we should take a breath and analyze what the consequences might be of an attack back on Iran by Israel or of any other escalation."

  • The Delaware Democrat and close ally to Biden said he understands that "there are those who think that's the only way for us to restore deterrence."
  • "I think the most important deterrent action that Congress can take ... is for Speaker Johnson to not take days or weeks to try and come up with some other package but to pass the supplemental tomorrow," he said.
  • House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) said Saturday that the House will vote on an aid package this week, though he did not specify what it will contain beyond aid for Israel.

House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner (R-Ohio) said Sunday on "Meet the Press" he thinks the U.S. "needs to make clear, which the administration has not, that if they continue to attack Israel that yes, they will get a response."

  • "I don't think at this point that the United States should be engaged in a military action directly at Iran," Turner added.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said he supports "defending American troops in the region."

  • "The bottom line is we sent these young Americans there, and our job is to protect them, so I'm in favor of doing anything we can to protect them and prevent them from being attacked," Rubio added.
  • Rubio also criticized the Biden administration for leaking the contents of the president's call with Netanyahu, and said it was only done so when Israel does retaliate, "the White House can say, we told them not to do it."

Zoom out: All this comes as House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said Sunday the House will "try again" to pass military aid to Israel in response to Iran's attack, Axios' Andrew Solender reports.

Go deeper: Scoop: Biden told Bibi U.S. won't support an Israeli counterattack on Iran

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