May 23, 2024

President Biden said on Thursday that he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel were headed toward a “come-to-Jesus meeting” over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, according to an audio clip of the president’s remarks posted on social media on Friday.

Mr. Biden’s comment highlights the rising tensions between him and Mr. Netanyuhu in recent weeks, as the civilian death toll in Gaza has risen inexorably and Mr. Biden has come under political pressure at home and abroad to do more to compel Israel to agree to a cease-fire.

In recent days, Mr. Biden had expressed hope that at least a six-week cease-fire deal would be in place by Ramadan, the Muslim holy month that starts in a few days. But Israel and Hamas have reached an impasse in negotiations to recover vulnerable hostages taken during the Oct. 7 attack in Israel in exchange for a permanent cease-fire and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza.

On Friday, when asked by reporters if a deal could still be reached by Ramadan, Mr. Biden said, “It’s looking tough.”

The president’s earlier “come-to-Jesus” comments were captured on a hot microphone during what Mr. Biden thought was a private exchange with Senator Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado, after the State of the Union address.

According to a recording of the conversation, Mr. Bennet encouraged the president to “keep pushing” on the issue of humanitarian assistance to Gaza as Israel fights its war against Hamas, a war for which the United States has provided funding and weaponry.

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