Biden’s Warning Over Rafah Sharpens a Problem for Netanyahu

President Biden’s warning over halting weapons supplies has tightened the bind that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel faces, as he is increasingly caught between international calls for a cease-fire and right-wing Israeli demands to proceed with a wide-scale invasion of Rafah, in southern Gaza.

Mr. Netanyahu, who has insisted over American objections that invading Rafah is necessary, now finds the U.S.-Israel relationship at a moment of crisis that could affect how he conducts the next phase of the war against Hamas.

On Thursday, the Israeli leader, alluding to Mr. Biden’s remarks, said in a statement: “If we need to stand alone, we will stand alone. I have said that, if necessary, we will fight with our fingernails. But we have much more than fingernails and with that same strength of spirit, with God’s help, together we will win.”

With Mr. Biden threatening for the first time to withhold more American weapons, including heavy bombs and artillery shells, if Israel carries out a major operation in Rafah, a city crammed with about a million Palestinians, analysts say that the Israeli military risks losing the support of its most important supplier of foreign arms.

“The United States provides Israel with a steel dome — it’s not only military support; it’s strategic and political; it’s at the United Nations, the international court, and so on.” said Amos Gilead, a former senior Israeli defense official who worked closely with American security officials for decades.

“If we lose the United States with the unbelievable friendship of President Biden, it won’t be forgiven.”

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