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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

Updated May 20, 2021 - World

Israel and Hamas approve ceasefire in Gaza

The aftermath. Photo: Ahmed Zakot/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty

Tel Aviv — President Biden welcomed the imminent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas after eleven days of fighting in a White House statement on Thursday.

The state of play: Israel's Security Cabinet voted earlier Thursday evening to approve the ceasefire, which is set to go into effect at 2am local time (7pm ET). Hamas also backed the ceasefire, but the sides have issued sharply contrasting messages about its terms.

Updated May 19, 2021 - World

Biden presses Netanyahu on Gaza ceasefire

A Palestinian boy sits on the remains of a building destroyed by an Israeli air strike. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty

After 10 days of standing behind Israel's military campaign in the Gaza Strip, President Biden made clear that he is running out of patience. Biden told Netanyahu he expects "significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire," per the White House readout of their call.

Why it matters: 219 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting, at least half of them civilians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Israel is under growing international pressure to end its operation — though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted earlier on Wednesday that Israel wouldn't "stand with a timer" and needed additional time to complete its objectives.

May 19, 2021 - World

Israel targets homes of Hamas commanders as Gaza fighting hits day 10

Palestinian Ryad Eshkuntana, checks his daughter Suzy, as they receive medical care at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City after his wife and other children were killed in an Israeli air strike. Photo: Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images

The fighting in the Gaza Strip has entered its tenth day with efforts toward a ceasefire ramping up but still yielding little progress.

Why it matters: 219 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting, at least half of them civilians, according to the Gaza health ministry. Israel is now under growing international pressure to end its operation, including from the Biden administration, Israeli officials say.