Netanyahu Says Israel Will ‘Stand Alone’ If Needed as Biden Threatens to Hold Up Weapons Deliveries

Netanyahu Says Israel Will ‘Stand Alone’ If Needed as Biden Threatens to Hold Up Weapons Deliveries
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (Abir Sultan/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed his country would fight alone and by “tooth and nail” if need be after President Joe Biden threatened to stop supplying Israeli forces with certain weapons if they targeted dense population centers in the southern Gazan city of Rafah.

Mr. Netanyahu has set a goal in Israel’s military campaign in Gaza to eliminate the Hamas terrorist group, and has described Rafah as one of the group’s last major strongholds. President Biden, on the other hand, has raised concern that a large-scale military operation in Rafah risks harming Gazan civilians who have relocated to the city over the last seven months of fighting.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin confirmed at a Wednesday Senate hearing that the Biden administration had delayed delivery of a shipment of “high-payload munitions” to Israel.

“A small-diameter bomb, which is a precision weapon that’s very useful in a [densely] built-up environment, is very helpful,” Mr. Austin said. “But maybe not so much a 2,000-pound bomb that could create a lot of collateral damage.”

Hours after Mr. Austin’s Senate remarks, President Biden sat for an interview with CNN in which he said civilians “have been killed in Gaza as a consequence” of Israel’s use of 2,000-pound bombs. The president then reiterated his opposition to a large-scale Israeli offensive in Rafah, stating he would withhold certain types of lethal aid if Israeli forces expanded their operations there.

“If they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons,” President Biden said.

Without directly referencing the delays in U.S. arms shipments or disagreements over a Rafah assault, Mr. Netanyahu vowed in a Thursday video statement that his government would not be deterred in its war efforts.

“If we have to stand alone, we will stand alone. If we need to, we will fight tooth and nail,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “But we have much more than fingernails.”

‘We Have What We Need’ For Rafah Operation: IDF Spokesman

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Rear Adml. Daniel Hagari gave assurances at a Thursday press briefing that Israeli forces have the weapons and equipment necessary to see their plans through for Rafah.

“The army has munitions for the missions it plans, and for the missions in Rafah, too—we have what we need,” the IDF spokesman told reporters.

Despite President Biden’s threats to withhold certain weapons deliveries over disagreements about operations in Rafah, the IDF spokesman said the U.S. support for Israel in the ongoing war has been “unprecedented,” noting U.S. assistance with intercepting missiles and drones Iran launched at Israel in April.

Rear Adml. Hagari said when disputes do arise between Israeli and U.S. leaders they should be resolved behind closed doors.

Weapons Delay Sends ‘Discordant Message’: Jewish American Organization

Speaking with “NTD Good Morning” on Thursday, Democratic political strategist and a former state senator in New York David Carlucci said pausing deliveries of certain high-payload weapons, such as 2,000-pound bombs, was an appropriate measure of due diligence on the part of the Biden administration.

“I think this is the due diligence that we want in a leader, to make sure that if we’re supplying even our greatest ally, Israel, with lethal weapons, we need to make sure that we do our due diligence and that it’s going to be used in the most appropriate way,” Mr. Carlucci said.

But the Jewish Policy Forum—an organization of Jewish Americans offering policy recommendations on the long-running Israeli–Palestinian conflict—said even if 2,000-pound bombs aren’t necessary, the optics of the pause sends mixed signals regarding U.S. support for Israel.

“While withholding 2,000-pound bombs intended for an operation in Rafah does not put Israel’s existence at risk or even make an operation in Rafah impossible, it sends a discordant message at a time when Hamas is holding out on a hostage deal in the hopes that pressure will grow on Israel and it will gain a ceasefire without having to give anything in return,” the Jewish Policy Forum said in a Thursday press statement.

The Biden administration has tried to balance its military support for Israel with efforts to facilitate humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip and foster ceasefire negotiations in the conflict.

The Netanyahu government has been willing to offer a temporary pause in the fighting in exchange for the return of hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7. But Hamas has pushed for a more permanent ceasefire, and for Israeli forces to withdraw from the Gaza Strip without fulfilling Mr. Netanyahu’s goal to eliminate them outright.

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