Israeli PM Netanyahu hits back at far-right minister’s criticism of US war backing

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hit back on Sunday at a powerful far-right minister in his cabinet who said Washington has not fully backed Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir told the Wall Street Journal that US President Joe Biden had not given Israel sufficient support.

“Instead of giving us his full backing, Biden is busy with giving humanitarian aid and fuel [to Gaza], which goes to Hamas,” Ben-Gvir told the newspaper in an article published on Sunday.

“If [former US president Donald] Trump was in power, the US conduct would be completely different.”

Netanyahu appeared to respond to the interview ahead of a cabinet meeting on Sunday, saying: “We greatly appreciate the support that we have received from the Biden administration since the outbreak of the war.”

“I don’t need help to know how to navigate our relations with the US and the international community, while standing firm on our national interests,” he said.

“We make our own decisions, even in those cases where there is no agreement with our American friends.”

The United States is Israel’s main international ally, providing billions of dollars each year in military support.

But in recent weeks it has insisted on greater protection of civilians in the Gaza Strop as well as the eventual creation of a Palestinian state.

Ben-Gvir’s outburst against Biden came after Washington took the rare move of imposing sanctions on four settlers following rising violence against Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank.

Ben-Gvir himself lives in a settlement.

Biden said the violence there had “reached intolerable levels” as he signed off on sanctions last week.

Around 490,000 settlers live among approximately three million Palestinians in the West Bank, in settlements that are considered illegal under international law.

Since the October 7 attacks triggered war between Israel and Hamas, more than 370 people have been killed by Israeli troops and settlers in the West Bank, according to the Palestinian health ministry in Ramallah.

The latest diplomatic wrangle comes as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected in Israel in the coming days as part of his fifth trip to the Middle East since the Israel-Hamas war began.

Blinken will press for the adoption of a new proposal involving the release of Israeli hostages in return for a pause in the fighting, the State Department said.

The war was sparked by Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.

Militants also seized around 250 hostages, and Israel says 132 remain in Gaza including at least 27 of whom are believed to have been killed.

Vowing to eliminate Hamas, Israel launched a massive military offensive that has killed at least 27,365 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-ruled territory’s health ministry.

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