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News Analysis

President Biden, at least in public, has limited his responses to Israel’s war in Gaza to ever more indignant declarations.

A white car whose roof has a hole and the words “World Central Kitchen” written on it sits with a door open.
Israel’s attack on a World Central Kitchen convoy, which killed seven, is more evidence that the country “has not done enough to protect aid workers,” President Biden said.Credit…Mohammed Saber/EPA, via Shutterstock

By David E. Sanger and Peter Baker

David E. Sanger and Peter Baker have covered Middle East conflicts for several decades, from posts in Washington and around the world.

When President Biden said he was “outraged and heartbroken” about the killing of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers in Gaza, his forceful language raised a natural question: Would this strike, even if a tragic error, lead him to put conditions on the weapons he sends to Israel?

So far, the White House has been silent on whether Mr. Biden’s anger is leading to a breaking point with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom every interaction has been tense. The two are scheduled to speak on Thursday, according to a senior Biden administration official. But in public, at least, Mr. Biden has limited his responses to ever more indignant declarations.

Launching a bombing campaign on the southern city of Rafah would cross a “red line,” Mr. Biden has insisted, without laying out the consequences. The attack on the World Central Kitchen convoy is more evidence that Israel “has not done enough to protect aid workers,” he said on Tuesday, without specifying how its behavior should change.

“I hope this will be the moment where the president changes course,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland and one of Mr. Biden’s most enthusiastic supporters, who pressed for months to place conditions on the arms the United States supplies. “Netanyahu ignored the president’s requests, and yet we send 2,000-pound bombs with no restrictions on their use.”

“We shouldn’t send bombs first and hope for some assurances later,” he concluded.

Image

An American-made F-15 from the Israeli Air Force near Gedera, Israel, last week. Conditions on how American arms are used are usually standard fare.Credit…Abir Sultan/EPA, via Shutterstock

Conditions on how American arms are used are usually standard fare, some imposed by Congress and others by the president or secretary of state. Ukraine, for example, is not permitted to shoot American-made weapons into Russia, and even though it has generally complied, there is still debate within the administration about whether to give more powerful missiles to Kyiv if an aid package ever passes Congress.


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