Netanyahu in his public statements has been adamant that he is not taking orders from outside of Israel on how to continue the war.

Many Democrats in Congress and foreign governments say the administration needs to bring more pressure to bear on Israel. They argue that only a threat to cut off military aid or to withdraw diplomatic support for Israel at the United Nations will persuade Netanyahu to scale back the offensive in Gaza and open up access for humanitarian convoys.

“What remains is we’ve got a profound contradiction that we have to face directly: We have a situation where the U.S. is airdropping aid on day one, and Israel is dropping bombs on day two,” Sen. Peter Welch, D-Vt., told NBC News. “And the American taxpayer is paying for the aid and the bombs.”

Welch added that “essentially what you’ve got is the prime minister (of Israel) asking us for money and rejecting our advice.”

“And the big question is, from my perspective, whether the president needs to get more aggressive with Netanyahu,” he said.

Another senator from Biden’s party, Chris Murphy of Connecticut, said there was a growing risk that Israel’s and America’s national interests were diverging, unless Netanyahu shifted course.

Murphy said, “There has to be a rapid serious change in direction of Israel’s policy, or our national security interest and Benjamin Netanyahu’s interests are going to clearly be in fundamentally different places.”

Although it has refrained from issuing ultimatums to Israel, the Biden administration on Monday welcomed to Washington a member of Netanyahu’s war Cabinet, Gantz, a centrist seen as the prime minister’s main political opponent. Opinion polls show Gantz’s National Unity party gaining ground against the prime minister’s Likud party.

A Netanyahu ally, Dudi Amsalem, a minister from the Likud party, slammed Gantz for traveling to Washington.

Writing on the social media platform X, he said Americans likely view Gantz as the person “to lead the process of a Palestinian state and the cessation of fighting in Gaza.” He added: “You entered the emergency government to create a consensus during wartime … not to stop the [Israel Defense Forces] from winning the war.”

But the administration sees maintaining a channel with Gantz as a way of possibly shaping Israel’s decision-making and keeping options open for the future, former officials said.

“We have been dealing with all members of the war Cabinet, including Mr. Gantz,” White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said. “We see this as a natural outgrowth of those discussions. We’re not going to turn away that sort of opportunity.”

The State Department said Monday that the U.S. continues to supply weapons to Israel because the Hamas leaders behind the Oct. 7 terror attacks, the worst in Israel’s history, are still at large.

“They would relaunch the attacks of Oct. 7, today, tomorrow if they had the capability to do so,” Miller, the State Department spokesperson, told reporters. “So we support Israel’s legitimate military campaign consistent with international humanitarian law.”

Aiming for a cease-fire deal

Despite the mourning friction with Netanyahu, Biden remains an ardent supporter of Israel, shaped by his long career in the Senate and his emotional connection to the Jewish state and its history, former officials and analysts say.

Biden has faced fierce criticism from younger progressives in the party and from Arab Americans for his handling of the Israel-Hamas war, with more than 100,000 voters in Michigan’s Democratic primary choosing “uncommitted” instead of Biden.

But Biden’s team also is wary of providing any ammunition to Republicans or pro-Israel hawks that the president has in any way abandoned Israel.

Most importantly, the administration believes that withholding military aid could prove counterproductive as the main objective now is to clinch a six-week cease-fire deal designed to stop the fighting and secure the release of dozens of hostages still held by Hamas, according to Aaron David Miller, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank.

“The main reason in my view is Biden understands he needs to make a difference, not a point,” Miller said. “And the difference is this: Without an Israel-Hamas cease-fire — which would allow surging humanitarian aid into Gaza; a suspension of Israeli military activities; the release of the women, the elderly and the sick hostages — you might as well hang the ‘closed for the season’ sign on American policy. This is the only way to even begin to start to de-escalate.”

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