Biden calls for temporary ceasefire in Gaza to allow for humanitarian aid in policy shift

President said he wants Israel to agree to a six to eight week ceasefire during interview on Univision

Eric Garcia,Andrew Feinberg
Wednesday 10 April 2024 01:39 BST
Biden calls Netanyahu’s approach to Gaza war a ‘mistake’

President Joe Biden said that Israel should call for a six-to-eight-week ceasefire with Hamas to allow for humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Mr Biden made the remarks in an interview with Univision conducted last week that aired on Tuesday evening.

“So I what I'm calling for is for the Israelis to just call for a ceasefire, allow for the next six, eight weeks total access to all food and medicine going into the country,” he told Univision journalist Enrique Acevedo.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets US President Joe Biden upon his arrival at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport on 18 October 2023
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets US President Joe Biden upon his arrival at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport on 18 October 2023 (AFP via Getty Images)

The words signal a shift for Mr Biden, who had previously called for a ceasefire to be coupled with a release of hostages. Mr Biden said that he had spoken with the governments of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt.

“They're prepared to move in,” he said. “They're prepared to move this food in. And I think there's no excuse to not provide for the medical and the food needs of those people. It should be done now.”

Mr Biden also vocally criticised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that Mr Netanyahu’s approach to the war in Gaza is “a mistake.” This comes months after Mr Biden has vocally supported Israel’s strategy to combat Hamas after the terror group conducted a surprise attack on October 7 wherein militants killed 1,200 people and took more than 200 hostages.

Last week, Mr Biden spoke with Mr Netanyahu after an Israeli airstrike killed seven aid workers for World Central Kitchen in Gaza.

“I think it’s outrageous that those four, three vehicles were hit by drones and taken out on a highway where it wasn’t like it was along the shore, it wasn’t like there was a convoy moving there,” Mr Biden told Univision.

A readout of the call said that Mr Biden called the airstrike “unacceptable” and “made clear” to the prime minister that US policy would depend on whether Israel can “announce and implement a series of specific, concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers.”

At the same time, Mr Biden signed a bill to keep the government open last month that also halted funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.

He also told Univision that he hopes for the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to pass a national security supplemental bill that would provide military aid to Israel.

“As you know, if we had a vote tomorrow, if the new speaker of the House of Representatives had the guts to call for a vote and on Ukraine, it would pass overwhelmingly and the majority of Republicans in both House and Senate would vote for it,” he said of House Speaker Mike Johnson.

Earlier this week, The Independent reported that the US State Department had seen an unprecedented of internal dissent memos regarding the war in Gaza.

-Andrew Feinberg and Mike Bedigan contributed reporting.

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