The Irish Times view on the US and Israel: Biden changes his tone

The US president’s message now seems to be that supporting Israel and supporting Netanyahu are not the same thing, though how he will use his influence remains to be seen

Leo Varadkar appeared to be pushing on an opening door. The Taoiseach’s use of his St Patrick’s Day visit to lobby on Gaza came at an opportune time and was welcome to the US president, evidence of international support for his and the US’s sharpened critique of Israel’s war. It came a day after Joe Biden had also praised the important speech by Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, a key figure in Jewish America, calling for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to go now.

He and his extremist government, the US seems now to acknowledge, are part of the problem, not the solution. Whether Biden uses his influence to push this point home and restrain further Israeli attacks remains to be seen.

“The Taoiseach and I agree about the urgent need to increase humanitarian aid in Gaza and get the ceasefire deal,” Biden said, reiterating their shared insistence that a two-state solution, adamantly rejected by the Israeli leader, is “the only path to lasting peace and security.”

Varadkar went further, warning that invading Rafah in southern Gaza, also opposed by the US, would be a violation of international law. He nailed Ireland’s colours firmly to the Palestinian mast , saying : “We see our history in their eyes.”


His comments will go down well at home, and with the many Democrats critical of Biden’s apparent willingness to allow Israel a free hand and of the ongoing supply of US weapons.

Biden has struck a sharper tone recently with Netanyahu, stressing that humanitarian relief in the face of the prospect of famine is an imperative. He has criticised the bombing of civilians and tried to restrain Israel’s urge to attack Lebanon.

Biden’s message now seems to be that supporting Israel and supporting Netanyahu are not the same thing. US secretary of state Antony Blinken returns to the region to push again for a ceasefire and the release of hostages and to meet senior Saudi and Egyptian leaders to discuss the inextricably related “right architecture for lasting regional peace”. Netanyahu does not appear to be a pillar of that architecture.

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