President Joe Biden has reportedly called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an “asshole” in at least three recent incidents as tensions between the two leaders mount, three people familiar with the president’s comments told NBC News.
As the Israel-Hamas war rages on in the Middle East, Biden has reportedly been “venting his frustration” with aides and campaign officials over how Israel has carried out its offensive attacks in Gaza, five people directly familiar with the president’s comments told NBC News in a report Monday. The president has reportedly been pushing for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war but Netanyahu has been giving Biden “hell,” the people familiar with the comments told NBC News.
“He just feels like this is enough,” one of the people said of the views expressed by Biden to NBC News. “It has to stop.”
Biden reportedly aired some of his frustrations at a fundraiser in January after thanking donors for helping him stand up to antisemitism and back Israel, a supporter who was present at the event told NBC News.
“He did say Bibi started off great, but ‘he’s been a pain in my ass lately’ or ‘he’s been killing me lately’ — one of those things,” the person who was present for Biden’s comments told NBC News “He goes, ‘But he’s doing a disservice … of late.’”
A National Security Council spokesperson told NBC News that the two world leaders have a “respectful relationship.”
“The president has been clear where he disagrees with Prime Minister Netanyahu, but this is a decades-long relationship that is respectful in public and in private,” the spokesperson told the outlet.
Biden and his administration have pledged their support for Israel since Hamas launched a terrorist attack on the country on Oct. 7. The president’s pro-Israel stance, however, has received push back from members of his campaign and those within his administration. (RELATED: Intern Rebellion: White House Underlings Stir Up Division Over Biden’s Foreign Policy)
A coalition of State Department staffers signed on to a letter in November, demanding that the president call for a ceasefire in the conflict. Seventeen anonymous staffers on Biden’s reelection campaign petitioned to the president, reportedly arguing that Biden is complicit in genocide while urging the president to cut off unconditional military aid to Israel, according to an anonymous letter first obtained by Politico.
“It is not enough to merely be the alternative to Donald Trump. The campaign has to shift the feeling in the pits of voters’ stomachs, the same feeling that weighs on us every day as we fight for your reelection. The only way to do that is to call for a ceasefire,” the letter states.
As the concerns with Biden’s pro-Israel stance have grown within his camp, the president’s tone towards Israel has begun to slightly shift. Recently, the president said Israel’s “conduct of the response in the Gaza Strip” was “over the top” though the White House was quick to clarify that Biden was referring to the country’s military operations in Gaza, Axios reported. Biden also told Netanyahu in a phone call Sunday that Israel should refrain from launching a ground assault in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza, “without a credible and executable plan.”
“[The president’s] position hasn’t changed. I don’t think his messaging has changed. We don’t think his messaging has [changed]. He doesn’t believe his messaging has changed,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters during a Friday press briefing.