Biden says he is “quietly working with the Israeli government to reduce withdrawals from Gaza”.
US President Joe Biden said on Monday he was working to persuade the Israeli government to make a significant drawdown or “pull out” of Gaza.
He spoke during a campaign event at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina – where a mass shooting occurred in 2015 – and was interrupted by protesters calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
One protester shouted at the president, “If you really care about the lives lost here, you should respect the lives lost and call for a ceasefire in Palestine.”
Then a group of protesters started raising slogans of “cease fire now”.
He was asked to leave, while his followers chanted “four more years”. The moment underscores divisions within the Democratic Party on the issue, three months after Israel’s military campaign in Gaza following Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7.
Biden acknowledged the outrage: “I understand the sentiment and have quietly worked with the Israeli government to deescalate and pull out of Gaza.”
After the speech, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, Quentin Fulks, told reporters, “Of course, the president is listening.”
Fulks added: “He’s listening to every part of his bass. “That’s why he’s here and that’s why we’re going to continue to take this message everywhere we go.”
Fulks assured that Biden was “very firm” that “even if people disagree with us from a political standpoint, we respect their viewpoints and understand them.”
When asked specifically about the protesters calling for a ceasefire, communications director Michael Tyler said Biden understood the sentiment.
He said the president “looks at this not as a politician, but as a human being and a commander in chief, who looks at this from the perspective of someone who cares about American security and global security.”
In recent months, there has been growing internal frustration among Joe Biden administration staff over the way the president has responded following the October 7 Hamas attack.
In November, more than 700 officials and politicians signed a letter asking the President to support a ceasefire in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. The letter was signed by employees working in more than 30 departments and agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the FBI and NASA.
For his part, Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be the last in a long parade of Biden national security officials to meet face-to-face with the Israeli government on Tuesday. This will be his fifth visit after the Hamas attack on October 7.
The stakes of Blinken’s visit are high, as US allies supported Israel at the beginning of the war, but it has become important as civilian casualties in Gaza have increased. Those partners will be looking for evidence that Israel is listening to the United States, and as tensions rise in the region, aides hope Blinken can ensure Israel’s cooperation amid concerns about the conflict. There is a practical plan to end the war.
Just last month, Israeli officials were also visited by National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Amos Hochstein, a special envoy who works on energy issues and has close ties to Israel and Lebanon.