Biden Calls Netanyahu In Private Meeting

( In one of his first foreign policy tests as Commander in Chief, President Joe Biden reaffirmed American support for Israel on Wednesday amidst the worst fighting between the Jewish state and Palestinian militants since 2014.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Biden said he had a conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to personally express his support.

“My expectation and hope is that this will be closing down sooner than later. But Israel has a right to defend itself against thousands of rockets flying into your territory,” Biden said.

Since last week, Israel has launched hundreds of airstrikes in retaliation for Hamas-led rocket attacks from Gaza. On Tuesday, Tel Aviv endured a barrage of 130 rockets launched from the Gaza strip, most of which were intercepted by Israel’s anti-rocket defense system known the Iron Dome.

But Biden’s reassurances to the press and to Netanyahu stand in contrast to statements made by White House staff and others in the administration who have taken a much more nuanced view of the conflict.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki took a decidedly more “both sides” approach in her briefing on Tuesday saying, “The president’s support for Israel’s security, for its legitimate right to defend itself, and its people is fundamental and will never waver. We condemn ongoing rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including against Jerusalem.  We also stand against extremism that has inflicted violence on both communities.”

Psaki stressed that high-level talks were in progress with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. State Department spokesman Ned Price echoed those points and responded to the criticism that the Biden administration’s response is “half-hearted,” saying, “the United States is doing what we can, knowing that our ability in certain situations is going to be in some cases limited.” At the same time, he called “on both sides” for an end to the violence.

Former President Donald Trump knocked Biden and his team for the rising violence, blaming the conflict on “Biden’s weakness and lack of support for Israel.”

Despite repeated pledges by previous presidents, President Trump was the first to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and later completed the movement of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.