President Joe Biden spent part of Saturday on the phone with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas expressing his concern about the escalating violence and death in the region, according to read outs of the calls from the White House.
The calls were similar to a previous conversation Biden and the leaders had on tensions in the region that have bubbled over in the last week, and are continuing to escalate, according to published reports.
Some 2,000 rockets were launched by Hamas into Israel since Monday, killing eight Israelis, and the Israeli military has conducted several air strikes in Gaza, killing more than 135 Palestinians including women and children, The Hill reported.
In both calls, Biden expressed his “strong” desire for both sides to come to an agreement on a two-state solution to allow “the Palestinian people to enjoy the dignity, security, freedom, and economic opportunity that they deserve.”
He also spoke with both leaders about making the Israeli capital of Jerusalem a place “of peaceful coexistence for people of all faiths and backgrounds.”
While Biden told Netanyahu that he continues his strong support for Israel to defend itself against “indiscriminate” rocket attacks into the Jewish state from the Hamas terrorist organization, he also told the Israeli leader that “this current period of conflict has tragically claimed the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including children,” according to the read out of the call.
He also expressed his concern for the safety of journalists after the Israeli Air Force destroyed a high rise building in Gaza City Saturday that housed journalists from several news organizations including the Associated Press and Al-Jazeera.
In his call with Abbas, Biden additionally stressed the need for Hamas to stop shooting rockets into Israel and briefed him on U.S. diplomatic measures being taken because of the violence.
He also highlighted reestablishing assistance to the Palestinian people, including humanitarian and economic aid to benefit the residents of the West Bank and Gaza, the read out of that call said.
As Biden tries to work with each side’s respective leaders, congressional Democrats are becoming more outspoken about what they see as aggression toward Palestinians by Israel.
“There is a very strong emerging ground in the Democratic Party that wants to see an American policy that is balanced — that recognizes both Israel’s security needs and rights when it comes to defending itself from rockets and terror, but also recognizes that will never end unless Palestinians get their rights and their freedoms,” Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, an advocacy group founded as a progressive pro-Israel voice on U.S. policy, told Politico in an article published Saturday. “We think that this is becoming the center of the Democratic Party.”
That point of view was echoed in the article by several Democratic lawmakers, including the Democratic junior senator from Connecticut.
“We’re in this moment today because Hamas made a horrible mistake and fired rockets unprovoked into Israel. But we also got here because the Israeli government has effectively eliminated the prospect of a viable future Palestinian state,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said in an interview Friday after returning from a trip to the region earlier this year.
Murphy also said that the U.S. must make harder demands on Israel to bring about peace between the two, according to Politico.
“In the wake of this crisis, it’s even more important for the United States to draw a harder line with the Israeli government and demand that these settlements and these evictions and these displacements stop,” Murphy said. “Because the violence will not end, whether we like it or not, if the Palestinians feel like they have no future and no ability to determine their own path.”