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President Biden speaks Thursday night about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

The juxtaposition of Congress widely criticizing Israel while the president maintains support has created a good cop/bad cop role reversal that isn't going unnoticed in Israel.

Why it matters: An increasing number of Democratic lawmakers became frustrated with President Biden this week for his behind-the-scenes approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Axios found. That's a sea change from a tradition of presidential prominence, as well as unquestioned congressional support for Israel.

  • Lawmakers said they thought the White House should be more publicly forceful in its efforts to de-escalate the crisis.
  • It was only Thursday night that both sides agreed to a ceasefire, a development that Biden said in hastily arranged White House remarks came after the administration's "intense," "quiet and relentless" diplomacy that included six calls to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
  • In Israel, which had grown accustomed to criticism from President Obama before a respite of support from President Trump, officials came to view the White House and State Department as the "good cop" — weighing in to support Netanyahu's government and blocking problematic initiatives.

What they're saying: "I just wish they would be very forward-leaning and very public on the ceasefire," said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), a key member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

  • "As the U.S., we always are weighing in aggressively for a ceasefire whenever there's civilian casualties on both sides of a shooting war. It just seems so odd that the U.S. isn't forcefully doing it. ... I can’t really figure it out."
  • Democratic senators and their aides have also privately expressed concerns about the lack of a congressional briefing about the issue, sources familiar with the talks tell Axios.

The other side: Israeli ambassador to Washington Gilad Erdan told Israeli media in recent days a change within the Democratic Party — and the growing influence of progressives — had a big impact on how the Gaza crisis played out.

  • Axios from Tel Aviv author Barak Ravid reports that Erdan said Israel must increase its outreach to minority groups in America to build new bases of support within the left.
  • “The mainstream of the Democratic Party supports Israel and supports military aid to Israel," Erdan said on Kan radio. “'The Squad' has grown into a group of 12 members of Congress that are very loud with many anti-Israeli initiatives, and I guess this has a lot of effect."
  • Democratic aides agree there's been a clear shift to the left by senators on the Israel issue, guided particularly by Palestinian activists.

Between the lines: Biden has a longstanding relationship with Netanyahu, dating back to his days in the Senate and as Obama's vice president.

  • Some experts have argued the outcry from Democrats could potentially work in Biden's favor, allowing him to use his own domestic politics as something of a scapegoat to preserve his relationship with Netanyahu while pushing him toward peace.

Go deeper

Aug 27, 2021 - World

Israeli PM presented Biden with "death by a thousand cuts" Iran strategy

Bennett and Biden. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney-Pool/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett presented President Biden in their meeting today with what Israeli officials described as “a death by a thousand cuts” strategy against Iran.

Why it matters: Besides striking up a personal relationship, Bennett's primary goal in his first meeting with Biden was to express his sense of urgency about the significant progress Iran was making in its nuclear program, and Israel's new government conducted an Iran policy review prior to the visit.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Beto plans Texas comeback in governor's race

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke speaks during the Georgetown to Austin March for Democracy rally on July 31, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke is preparing to run for governor of Texas in 2022, with an announcement expected later this year, Texas political operatives tell Axios.

Why it matters: O'Rourke's entry would give Democrats a high-profile candidate with a national fundraising network to challenge Republican Gov. Greg Abbott — and give O’Rourke, a former three-term congressman from El Paso and 2020 presidential candidate and voting rights activist, a path to a political comeback.

Texas doctor says he performed an abortion in violation of state law

Pro-choice protesters march down Congress Avenue and back to the Texas state capitol in Austin, Tx in July 2021. Photo: Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

A Texas doctor disclosed in an op-ed in the Washington Post Saturday that he has performed an abortion in violation of the state's restrictive new abortion law, which effectively bans the procedure after six weeks.

Why it matters: Alan Braid's op-ed is a direct disclosure that will very likely result in legal action, thereby setting it up as a potential test case for how the abortion ban will be litigated, notes the New York Times.