Biden Praises Schumer Remarks Criticizing Netanyahu

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden praised remarks from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer criticizing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying the speech reflected concerns about the war in Gaza.

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“He made a good speech and I think he expressed serious concern shared not only by him, but by many Americans,” Biden told reporters at the White House on Friday.

Schumer in a speech on Thursday called for new Israeli elections and the replacement of Netanyahu in an extraordinary public rebuke of the prime minister, as fears grow about the civilian toll of Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The president said the New York senator had alerted his senior staff before giving the speech.

Biden stopped short of endorsing Schumer’s calls for Israeli elections and Netanyahu’s ouster. But the president’s comments nonetheless reflect deep frustration with the Israeli leader inside the White House and among Democrats over his conduct of the war.

Biden’s remarks on Friday came as he welcomed Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, one of the sharpest critics of Israel’s war on Hamas, to the White House. He said “both” he and Varadkar know more needs to be done to end the fighting and boost the flow of aid into Gaza, where officials are warning of a worsening humanitarian crisis.

“We need an immediate cease-fire as soon as possible to get food and medicine in and get hostages out. We need to talk about how to make that happen,” said Varadkar, who added a two-state solution is the “only way” to have “lasting peace and security.”

“I agree,” Biden replied.

Irish officials have been strident in their criticism of how Israel is carrying out its military campaign against Hamas in retaliation for the group’s Oct. 7 attack. The operation has sparked a humanitarian crisis for the 2 million people in Gaza and more than 30,000 people have been killed, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in the territory.

Biden publicly embraced Israel after the attacks by Hamas, designated a terrorist group by the US and European Union, but as the war has dragged on, he has increasingly sought to raise pressure on Netanyahu to do more to limit civilian deaths and allow more aid into Gaza. Tensions between Biden and Netanyahu have flared into the open in recent weeks.

The war has clouded the traditional visit from the Taoiseach to celebrate US-Irish ties around the St. Patrick’s Day holiday, which this year falls on Sunday. Biden was sporting a green tie with shamrocks and a pin showing the American and Irish flags as he sat with Varadkar.

Earlier: Schumer Urges Netanyahu Exit as Democrats’ Gaza Worries Grow

US officials are scrambling to secure a temporary cease-fire that would allow for the release of remaining hostages being held in captivity since the Hamas attack and flow humanitarian aid into Gaza. Negotiations have stretched into the Muslim holy period of Ramadan. Last week, Biden directed the US military to establish a temporary port on the Gaza coast to ramp up the delivery of food, water, medicine and other supplies — but that effort is likely to take weeks to build and carry out.

The conflict has domestic political ramifications for Biden as well, with the president facing criticism from progressives, younger voters and Arab and Muslim Americans over his approach.

Varadkar’s visit is the second by a foreign leader to the White House this week. Biden hosted Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Donald Tusk on Tuesday for talks dominated by efforts to support Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s invasion.

A White House statement ahead of the Biden-Varadkar meeting said the two would discuss supporting Ukraine and other global issues, including the Middle East, as well as reaffirm their support of Good Friday Agreement that brought an end to much of the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland and the recent restoration of that region’s assembly.

(Updates with further details on leaders’ meeting throughout)

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