President Joe Biden
“expressed his support” for a cease-fire between Israeli forces and Hamas
, the Palestinian military group in Gaza
, during a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
on Monday, according to a readout of the call.
Biden “reiterated his firm support for Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket
attacks” in the call, and “encouraged Israel to make every effort to ensure the protection of innocent civilians.”
The president and Israel's prime minister also "discussed progress in Israel's military operations against Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza."
During a press briefing early Monday afternoon, White House press secretary Jen Psaki
stated that the administration believed that “intensive, quiet discussions with leaders in the region” would help bring an end to a week of mayhem that has left hundreds dead in Palestine
and ten dead in Israel.
In response to criticism of the president's refusal to call for a cease-fire, Psaki stated, "There are times in diplomacy when we'll need to keep those conversations quieter." She added that the Biden administration
is primarily concerned with putting an end to the violence of the previous week.
Psaki claimed that publicly requesting a cease-fire, as a majority of Democrats
in the Senate
recently urged Biden to do, would be less effective than having a private conversation with “senior leaders in Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”
Despite Biden's initial reluctance to call on Israeli forces and Hamas to end the violence, a majority of Democrats in the Senate signed a letter Sunday night calling for an immediate cease-fire "to prevent any further loss of civilian life and to prevent further escalation of conflict."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer
joined his chamber's bipartisan call for a cease-fire following Psaki's press conference, in which she avoided directly answering questions about Gaza.
“I completely agree with the statement issued last night by Senators [Chris] Murphy and [Todd] Young,” said the New York
Democrat, who has long been a staunch supporter of the Israeli government. “I want to see a cease-fire reached quickly and mourn the loss of life.”
On Sunday, United Nations
Secretary-General António Guterres called for a cease-fire, saying the violence risks dragging Israelis and Palestinians
into a “spiral of violence with devastating consequences for both communities and for the entire region.” Several countries attempted to get the U.N. to issue a joint demand for a cease-fire, but U.S. officials reportedly blocked the attempt.
When asked if Israel's military response has been disproportionate, as human rights officials have noted, Psaki generally responded delicately on Monday, careful not to jeopardize US-Israeli relations.
When asked if Israel's violent attacks on Gaza are a sign Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is becoming more extreme, Psaki said, "it's not our role to assess or analyze politics
on the ground in Israel."
Nonetheless, Psaki stated that the Biden administration believes that a two-state solution is the only way for Israel and Palestine to reach peace, and that the recent spate of violence must be stopped.
“It would take actions from both Israel and Hamas to put an end to the violence on the ground,” Psaki explained.