How Biden Could Try to Coerce Israel to Change Its War Strategy

As the Biden administration increasingly clashes with Israeli leaders over the war in Gaza, a question that often arises is whether U.S. officials will try to exercise some form of harder leverage as Israel ignores their pleas.

They could do so, critics say, to try to get Israel to let more humanitarian aid into Gaza as it teeters on the brink of famine, to scale back its military campaign or to refrain from invading the Gaza Strip city of Rafah, where many civilians have fled.

Since the Hamas terrorist attacks on Oct. 7, in which about 1,200 Israelis were killed and about 240 taken hostage, Israel’s strikes have killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. President Biden has tried to influence Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu behind the scenes while showing strong support for Israel. Yet confrontations loom.

Israeli officials are expected to meet with their U.S. counterparts next week in Washington to hash out opposing opinions on plans to invade Rafah. And a growing number of former American officials say Mr. Biden has to start exercising leverage to shift Israel away from what they call its disastrous war.

The Biden administration has increasingly spoken of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, including mentioning it in a draft resolution on the war that it presented to the United Nations Security Council this week. The resolution called for an “immediate and sustained cease-fire” if Hamas released all hostages — a reiteration of the administration’s position, but with firmer language. Russia and China vetoed the resolution on Friday. Many nations have argued for a cease-fire with no conditions.

Mr. Biden would not be the first president to use hard levers if he chooses to do so. Four administrations, from Gerald R. Ford’s to George H.W. Bush’s, all withheld some form of aid or diplomatic agreement or firmly threatened that they would, said Martin S. Indyk, a special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in the Obama administration.

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