Unpredictable Bibi: WH Prepares for Bombshells in DC…

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress soon. The White House is worried that Netanyahu may take the opportunity to blame President Joe Biden for not doing enough to back the response against Hamas in Gaza.

For a president seeking reelection, next month’s address has the potential to be a politically fraught and diplomatically complex spectacle. A growing number of public pronouncements by Netanyahu, including one in an English-language video address, have fueled fears among White House advisers that the administration is concealing more military aid than what is publicly known.

The video that Netanyahu released this week was completely unhelpful, according to a senior official who wished to remain anonymous in order to discuss internal discussions freely. “And he has the power to exacerbate the situation before Congress.”

“No one knows what he’s going to say,” another senior official said more directly.

Since the Israel-Hamas war began, tensions between Biden and Netanyahu have grown. Biden associates believe that Netanyahu is trying to prolong the fight in order to maintain power and would rather have Donald Trump return to the White House. Furthermore, the battle has put Biden in a difficult political position, as he has been criticized by Republicans for not doing enough to defend Israel and has also been criticized by those within his own party for failing to protect Palestinian civilians.

Reportedly, Biden aides are extremely irritated, and the relationship has hit a new low due to Netanyahu’s recent claims, which caught the White House off guard. The revelation of Netanyahu’s video caused the Biden administration to delay a high-level meeting between the US and Israel regarding Iran.

According to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, “We genuinely do not know what he’s talking about” (quoted this week). She and her colleagues insisted that the suspension of all weapons transfers was due to a single shipment.

The first senior official and two others have reported that, as of this week, the White House has not invited Netanyahu to meet with Biden during his July 24th visit to Washington for his scheduled speech. According to those in the know, Biden is not going to publicly scold his Israeli counterpart, and the fact that the two leaders would be severely embarrassed if they did not meet makes it probable that such an invitation will be extended.

Requests for comment regarding the invitation went unanswered by the White House.

However, discussions have been held at intermediate levels. At Thursday’s meeting with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the White House, Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer and National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi were in attendance. Among the topics covered were the upcoming visit by Netanyahu, the situation in Gaza, and the war against Hamas. According to two U.S. officials, the video and the controversy it sparked in Washington were briefly brought up.

The State Department spokesman, Matthew Miller, dropped hints about the message Blinken said during the meeting.

He told reporters on Thursday that he doesn’t think it’s useful to get into a heated public debate about the matter, and that Blinken had informed Netanyahu last week that “our commitment to Israel’s security is sacrosanct” at a meeting with the prime minister.

One senior official in the West Wing said that Netanyahu’s advisors think he will use the congressional speech to target both his domestic and American audiences. It is probable that the prime minister would convey his appreciation for the assistance from the US and highlight the enduring alliance between the two countries. However, Netanyahu’s advisors also expect him to request additional funding conditionlessly, which they believe the Democrats will gladly accept.

Whether Netanyahu will utilise the opportunity to criticize Biden or his reaction to Israel’s actions in Gaza is an important question, the senior source said. The White House is acutely aware of the delicate internal political position Netanyahu finds himself in as he tries to appease the far-right faction within his coalition that advocates for a more aggressive military response against Hamas. The prime minister may benefit from the public’s perception that he is opposing Biden at home.

In a Friday interview with Punchbowl News, Netanyahu said, “was absolutely necessary after months of quiet conversation that did not solve the problem” when asked about his frustrations with the Biden administration’s handling of military deliveries.

I don’t identify with any political party; I’m not a partisan. A proud Israeli, I speak for all Israelis,” he went on to say.

Netanyahu has a history of using congressional speeches for political gain; in 2015, he enraged the Obama-Biden government by criticizing their proposed nuclear deal with Iran during his address to a joint session.

The progressive Democrats were not pleased by Netanyahu’s 2015 speech because they have been more critical of him since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict. The Israeli prime minister has come under fire from Democrats for supporting Israel’s far-right government while ignoring humanitarian concerns in Gaza.

“I didn’t attend last time, for obvious reasons,” Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) stated. Concern over the use of public funds in relation to events in that area is growing among Americans, in my opinion.

It has been reported that Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and other progressives will not be attending the address in late July.

U.S. aid to Israel in the long run is a shadow hanging over the speech. The White House has regularly authorized more supplies of weapons and assisted in guiding a large weapons package through Congress. However, it decided not to unleash 3,500 bombs on the heavily populated city of Rafah because it thought it would be too destructive.

At about the same time, Republicans in the House extended an invitation to Netanyahu to address lawmakers. Although he had doubts about the talk at first, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer eventually agreed to attend. Schumer is a staunch supporter of Israel but has been outspoken in his criticism of Netanyahu. The invitation did not surprise the White House, according to a Schumer spokesperson.

When Netanyahu wanted to meet with Biden at the White House a year ago, he was facing domestic opposition to his plan to reform Israel’s legal system. Instead of meeting with the prime minister of Israel on the fringes of the UN General Assembly, the president—who had already spoken out against the changes—refused.

Terrorists from Hamas invaded Israeli territory less than three weeks later, changing the dynamic between the two leaders forever and sending the area into war.

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