Thursday, February 29, 2024
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Biden aide acknowledges missteps on Gaza & regrets failure to express concern over loss of Palestinian life


A senior Biden administration aide privately admitted failures and “missteps” in communicating US policy regarding Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza during a closed-door meeting with Arab American and American leaders. Muslims in Michigan last week.

“We have left a very damaging impression, based on a completely inadequate public accounting of the importance placed by the president, the administration and the country on the lives of the Palestinians,” said Jon Finer, deputy national security adviser. , to community leaders. a recording obtained by CBS News. “We are very aware that we have made mistakes in our response to this crisis.”

Finer also acknowledged that many in the Arab-American community believe Mr. Biden does not sympathize with Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

The audio recording was verified by a National Security Council official.

Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy responded to Finer’s remarks in an interview on Sunday on “Take on the Nation with Margaret Brennan and said the administration plans to make changes. He pointed to President Biden’s statement Thursday that Israel has “gone too far” in Gaza, as well as Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent call for Israel not to dehumanize others, as Israelis themselves have dehumanized by Hamas during the brutal attacks of October 7. which sparked the current conflict.

“I think you will hear the president clearly,” Murphy said. “I suspect that, based on what the president said last week, you’re going to hear him continue to defend a campaign that defeats Hamas, but it’s done in a way that’s much more respectful of civilian life. “

During the closed-door meeting, Finer expressed regret over several specific instances of administration response, including the failure of the United States to publicly condemn remarks made early in the conflict by Israel’s defense minister Yoav Gallant, who call for a complete siege of Gaza and described those they were fighting in the Gaza Strip as “animals in human form.”

“We have not made it clear enough that we totally reject and disagree with these kinds of sentiments out of a desire to focus on solving the problem and not engage in a rhetorical back-and-forth with people who, in many cases, I think we all find somewhat abhorrent,” Finer said in the recording.

Finer also expressed regret following a statement made by the president on the 100th day of the conflict. The statement speaks of the fate of Israeli victims of the initial Hamas attack, including those taken hostage, but does not speak of Palestinian civilians killed by the Israeli response.

“There’s no excuse for that,” Finer said. “This shouldn’t have happened. I don’t believe it will happen again. But we know a lot of damage was done.” He called the damage “a very, very big hole.”

Last week’s meeting with community leaders was the first visit by Biden administration officials on the issue to the key state of Michigan since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, and one of several attempts administration to reach Arab and Muslim voters across the country. the country. The White House said several senior advisers, including Tom Perez, USAID Administrator Samantha Power and NSC Director for Partnerships and Global Engagement Mazen Basrawi, were among those sent by Mr. Biden.

Michigan, a critical swing state, is home to the nation’s largest concentration of Arab-Americans, with more … than 310,000 residents claim Middle Eastern or North African ancestry, according to a 2020 analysis commissioned by Emgage, an American Muslim political advocacy group.

The Biden administration has tried several channels of outreach to the Arab American population in recent weeks, including through Blinken as well as Vice President Kamala Harris. A White House official told CBS that Vice President Harris hoped to postpone a meeting with Palestinian-Americans on Monday that was canceled just over 24 hours before it was scheduled to take place, but that he planned to continue engaging with the community through phone calls and meetings.

“The President and Vice President have made it a priority to hear and listen directly to Palestinian, Arab and Muslim communities across the country on the conflict in Gaza,” a White House official said in a statement. , noting that the administration had done the same with American Jews and the families of Americans held hostage in Gaza.

CNN was the first to report that the meeting had been canceled.

The White House on Sunday released a detailed account of a call between President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that mentioned U.S. efforts to push for more aid to be authorized in Gaza, where the civilian population faces famine and which several countries have described as a “humanitarian crisis”. disaster.’ Netanyahu’s far-right coalition conviction handed down of the United States for his controversial proposals for judicial reforms and his statements against Arabs and other minority groups.

One of the meeting participants can be heard on the recording describing the White House message on the conflict as being worded “in a way that puts our communities at risk.”

In the days following the October 7 attack, a 6-year-old boy was stabbed to death in a Chicago suburb. He and his family were allegedly targeted because they were Muslim Palestinian Americans. Following the killing, Biden spoke by telephone with the family of the slain child, as did Harris.

At the Michigan meeting, Finer was also heard saying that the Biden administration “has no confidence in the current Israeli government” to “do the difficult thing that is going to be asked of it” in terms of “meaningful steps” to a two-state solution.

Yet the Biden administration has continued to support the Netanyahu government with words, weapons and billions in aid despite Netanyahu’s efforts. public refusals to approve a two-state solution. Giving the Palestinian people hope and a path to a future state is what the Biden administration says is necessary to achieve peace in the region.

The administration’s tone shift toward contrition comes just as half of Americans surveyed by the Associated Press said Israel’s war in Gaza has gone too far and that the United States, as the main supplier of weapons from Israel, face negative reactions. Asked last week about the public’s refusal to approve of Biden’s Middle East strategy, national security adviser Jake Sullivan told Margaret Brennan on “Face the Nation” that “we don’t design our policy towards Israel, nor Gaza, nor the Middle East on the basis of policy. do so based on U.S. national security interests. »

Netanyahu’s continued defiance of U.S. calls to slow the military assault on Gaza and what some Senate Democrats have called a deliberate slowness in aid deliveries are problems facing the Biden administration as it tries to contain regional tensions and counter domestic fallout from the United States. President Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by telephone Sunday as Israel continues to plan an invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza, where 1.4 million Palestinians are currently sheltering after being ordered to ‘evacuate there by Israel. According to the White House transcript of Sunday’s phone call, Biden told Netanyahu not to proceed with a military operation in Rafah without a “credible and enforceable plan to ensure the security and support of the most “a million people sheltering there”.

In a statement, the White House said Biden “called for urgent and specific measures to increase the flow and consistency of humanitarian assistance to innocent Palestinian civilians” and “reaffirmed his view that a military operation in Rafah should not take place without a credible agreement.” and enforceable to ensure the safety and support of the more than one million people housed there.

The crisis began on October 7, when Hamas militants killed more than 1,200 people and kidnapped about 240 additional civilians in a surprise attack on Israel. The Biden administration has argued that Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas, but has expressed concerns about how it is waging that war. The Palestinian Health Ministry in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip reports that 28,000 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in the conflict.



Note: The content and images used in this article is rewritten and sourced from www.cbsnews.com

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