US

It is one of the classic cliches of diplomacy, that a country speaks supportively of its allies in public whilst taking a more honest and harder tone in private, and that has long been the common assumption for America’s dealings with Israel.

Occasionally, however, there comes a point when the behind-doors diplomacy isn’t having the desired effect and so a more open, and usually critical, approach is needed.

It seems like the White House has now reached that moment in this war.

Israel-Hamas latest: UN calls for immediate ceasefire in general assembly vote

Over recent weeks, it was becoming obvious that the US government was frustrated with Israel on two issues in particular: the high number of civilian casualties in Gaza and the lack of humanitarian aid being allowed in.

There has also been a disagreement over how long the intense fighting in this war can last – Israel says months, the US says weeks.

Comments made by the vice president, the defence secretary and secretary of state in recent days all reflected that shifting mood in Washington.

More on Gaza

It is no secret that the White House is no fan of Israel’s extreme-right cabinet, but for the US president to clearly state that Netanyahu has to “change this government” is the bluntest expression of that to date.

Specifically, that relates to a disagreement between Washington and Israel over what happens ‘the day after’ in Gaza.

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0:38

Jewish activists chain themselves to White House

In recent weeks, the US has said the war must eventually end with the re-establishment of talks towards a two-state solution, but Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected that future, saying he will not let Gaza become “Hamastan or Fatahstan”, referring to the two main Palestinian political bodies.

Biden’s description of Israel’s bombing campaign as “indiscriminate” is language we are more used to hearing from Arab leaders, not the American president.

I have spent a large part of this year reporting on Netanyahu’s push for controversial judicial reforms in Israel and President Biden‘s opposition to them.

However, beyond denying Netanyahu an invitation to the White House, which will have stung someone of Bibi’s character, it’s hard to see how the US pressure had much effect on that particular matter.

If the reforms were stymied, it was more to do with fierce domestic opposition than opposition from the White House.

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0:47

UN votes for ceasefire resolution

This situation is different: the war in Gaza isn’t simply an internal Israeli issue, it has significant and extremely worrying regional consequences and the months ahead will require an extraordinary, and perhaps an unprecedented, alliance of Middle Eastern states to map out the future of Gaza and the West Bank.

The US does have diplomatic options that it could deploy if it feels ignored by Israel.

It could change its position within the UN Security Council, for example, and vote in favour of a ceasefire rather than rejecting one, as it did a few days ago.

This happened in 2009, when the UK government made a last-minute decision to vote in favour of a ceasefire, the US followed, and a ceasefire came into force a week later.

Read more:
Footage appears to show troops destroying property in Gaza
UN diplomats visit Rafah amid concerns over dwindling Gaza aid

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Army reservists are said to be resentful of Mr Netanyahu’s photo opportunities

Netanyahu’s popularity in Israel was in steady decline throughout the year as anger spread against the judicial reforms.

This war provided him with an unexpected respite, as the nation rallied and united to avenge the Hamas attacks.

More than two months on from that dreadful 7 October day, signs are once again emerging that Netanyahu’s position is fragile.

A recent poll on one Israeli TV station revealed that 72% of Israelis thought he should resign either immediately or once the war was over.

Reservist soldiers, who were among the most vocal and damaging opponents to the judicial reforms earlier this year, are now reportedly resentful of what they believe are shameless photo opportunities when Netanyahu visits them on the frontline.

And so faced with the return of domestic opposition to his premiership, can Netanyahu risk losing the support of the White House too?

The US remains supportive of Israel’s efforts to destroy Hamas, but is now clearly unimpressed with the way they are going about it.

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