White House Defends ‘Quiet’ Diplomacy in Israel-Gaza Crisis

The Biden administration says it wants to de-escalate the violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, but the White House is resisting calls to demand a cease-fire in a conflict that has cost at least 200 lives.

Pressed on why President Joe Biden and other top officials aren’t publicly calling for a cease-fire, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that “every statement we make is with the objective of reducing the violence and bringing an end to the conflict on the ground.”

“There are times in diplomacy where we’ll need to keep those conversations quieter, where we won’t read out every component of it,” Psaki told reporters. “But that is our objective and that is the prism through which every action and every comment is being made.”

Psaki said she wasn’t sure if Biden had seen the latest statement by a group of Senate Democrats calling for a cease-fire. She emphasized dozens of calls made by the president and top officials seeking to resolve the crisis, calling it “quiet, intensive” diplomacy, and said Biden was aware of the views held by members of Congress.

The statement signed by 29 Senate Democrats on Sunday said it’s time for the violence to stop.

“To prevent any further loss of civilian life and to prevent further escalation of conflict in Israel and the Palestinian territories, we urge an immediate cease-fire,” according to the statement, signed by senators including Jon Ossoff of Georgia, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Mark Warner of Virginia.

That followed demands from a dozen Jewish Democrats in the House on Friday asking the administration to address Israel’s “deepening occupation” in Jerusalem. There have been other, more widespread calls for action from the left flank of the party, which increasingly links Israeli policies toward the Palestinians to calls for racial justice at home.

“If the Biden admin can’t stand up to an ally, who can it stand up to?,” tweeted Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

Israel intensified its attacks on high-ranking militant commanders in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip as well as the group’s network of underground tunnels, as the onslaught entered its second week. The country’s military said 3,150 rockets have been fired from Gaza, including 460 that fell short and landed inside Palestinian territory, sometimes causing casualties there.

Some of the Israeli attacks have taken place at refugee camps, hospitals and schools, where Israel accuses Hamas of using human shields to try to protect its military operations. Palestinians say many of the victims have been civilians.

Psaki wouldn’t say whether Biden feels that Israel’s actions in the conflict have gone too far.

“It’s been seven days” since the latest flare-up started, Psaki said, adding that previous conflicts have lasted longer and that the U.S. wants to see the violence wind down as fast as possible.

The U.S. on Monday again stopped a UN Security Council effort to issue a statement on the crisis. The U.S. has blocked repeated efforts by other members of the Security Council to make a joint statement since last week and China on Sunday publicly called on the U.S. to join the rest of the council to call for an end to the fighting.

The U.S. is engaging in intense diplomatic efforts at the highest levels to try to bring an end to this conflict and it has a role in ensuring any council statement supports these efforts, a spokesperson for the U.S. Mission to the UN said.

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