Skip to main content

Palestinian attack on Israel rekindles Biden-Netanyahu relationship

US president says support for Israel is 'rock solid and unwavering' after Palestinian fighters launch land, air, and sea incursion
President Joe Biden meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York, on 20 September 2023.
President Joe Biden meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York, on 20 September 2023 (AP)

The war that broke out between Hamas and Israel on Saturday morning has provided Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with an opportunity to breathe new life into his relationship with US President Joe Biden.

After Hamas launched Operation Al-Aqsa Storm, firing a barrage of rockets into Israel while launching an incursion from land, air and sea, Biden offered unequivocal support for Israel, while making no reference to concerns about the rights of Palestinians.

“Israel has the right to defend itself and its people. Full stop. There’s never a justification for terrorist attacks. And my administration’s support for Israel security is rock solid and unwavering,” Biden said.

Hamas on Saturday morning announced a military operation against Israel, calling on all Palestinian factions and their allies to rise up.

Hamas launched thousands of rockets on Israel, and scores of Palestinian fighters crossed from the besieged Gaza Strip into Israel by land, sea, and air, seizing control of towns with shocking ease.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


Gaza has been under an Israeli blockade for nearly two decades, resulting in a perennial shortage of clean water, electricity, medical supplies in what is often dubbed the world’s largest open-air prison.

This year has also shaped up to be one of the bloodiest in the occupied West Bank. According to a tally by Middle East Eye, at least 222 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces this year, including 38 children.

While Israel and the US have enjoyed warm and close ties over the past several decades, the relationship between Biden and Netanyahu had frayed in recent months as the Israeli premier’s far-right government has sparked mass protests in the country over its contentious judicial overhaul plans.

'I think President Biden’s instinct is to put his arm around Bibi Netanyahu, reassure him of American support'

- Martin Indyk, former US ambassador to Israel

Biden weighed in on the matter earlier this year, calling on the Israeli government to abandon its judicial plans, triggering a rebuke from Netanyahu. Growing condemnations of Netanyahu’s government from top members of Biden’s Democratic Party has also appeared to have caused a rift in the two leaders’ relationship.

Biden is himself a self-proclaimed Zionist, is deeply pro-Israel, and has described Netanyahu as a close friend in the past. Their relationship has gone through ups and downs, including when Netanyahu attacked former President Barack Obama’s work on the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

And while over the past few months Democrats have openly criticised Netanyahu and his far-right government for attacks on Israel’s judiciary and for Israeli human rights violations against Palestinians, many Democrats have issued their unwavering support for Israel amid the ongoing fighting.

In addition to providing a way for Netanyahu’s relationship with Biden to thaw, Hamas’ military campaign against Israel may allow the Israeli prime minister to shake off any calls for restraint from the US president.

“I think President Biden’s instinct is to put his arm around Bibi Netanyahu, reassure him of American support, and try to encourage some restraint, although that’s likely to fall on deaf ears at this point,” Martin Indyk, the former US ambassador to Israel, said on Saturday during a media briefing hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.