Biden Issues Ultimatum to Netanyahu Over Aid Worker Deaths in Gaza

President Biden told Israel on Thursday he needs to see immediate changes to protect civilian lives in Gaza or he’ll reduce U.S. support.

In a tense, 30-minute phone call, Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel has to take immediate actions to protect civilian lives and allow food aid into Gaza or Biden will change his administration’s support for the country’s military campaign against Hamas. Biden described as “unacceptable” Israel’s strikes against humanitarian workers and the overall situation civilians are facing in Gaza.

Biden’s phone call with Netanyahu marked a significant shift in his approach to Israel following an Israeli military strike that killed seven World Central Kitchen aid workers on Monday, drawing condemnation around the globe.

Specifically, the Biden administration expects to see Israel open up more crossings for aid to get into Gaza, more food-filled trucks be allowed to enter—particularly from Jordan—and the Israeli military take proper steps to ensure safe travel for aid workers, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters. Kirby said Biden is demanding Israel take concrete steps to alleviate human suffering in Gaza in the “coming hours and days.”

“If we don’t see changes from their side there will have to be changes on our side,” Kirby said.

Israel has killed tens of thousands of civilians during the operation to destroy Hamas’s leadership and its network of tunnels under Gaza used as ammunition stores. Biden and senior US officials have been telling Israeli leaders for months they are concerned about Israel’s indiscriminate bombing in Gaza and Israel’s refusal to allow enough food into Gaza, putting more than 1 million people on the brink of famine. Asked if Biden has been frustrated that those messages haven’t gotten through, Kirby said, “Yes, there has been growing frustration.”

Biden’s political rival Donald Trump expressed a similar exasperation during an interview on the Hugh Hewitt Show that aired Thursday, saying that Israel was “losing the PR war” in their effort to dismantle Hamas. “You’ve got to get it over with, and you have to get back to normalcy,” Trump said. “And I’m not sure that I’m loving the way they’re doing it, because you’ve got to have victory. You have to have a victory, and it’s taking a long time.”

Biden has not reduced his administration’s military support for Israel during the six months since Hamas terrorists stormed farms and villages and murdered families in their homes on Oct. 7. In the wake of that attack, Biden told Israel “You are not alone” and “we’re going to stand with you.”

During his Thursday phone call, Biden also told Netanyahu that an “immediate ceasefire” is needed to protect civilians and improve the humanitarian situation. The American president also urged Netanyahu to “empower his negotiators to conclude a deal without delay to bring the hostages home.”

The heightened tensions between the U.S. and Israel come as Iran has threatened to retaliate against Israel for killing a top Iranian commander in Syria. While Biden and Netanyahu have disagreed on how Israel is conducting the war in Gaza, the White House description of their phone call said that Biden made clear that the U.S. “strongly supports Israel in the face of those threats” from Iran.