Biden Speaks to Both Netanyahu and Abbas in Attempt to Deescalate Gaza Tensions

Biden raises concerns about safety of journalists to Netanyahu after Israeli airstrike destroyed Gaza building that housed offices of The Associated Press and other media outlets on Saturday

Ben Samuels
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U.S. President Joe Biden, May 2021.
U.S. President Joe Biden, May 2021.Credit: REUTERS/Tom Brenner
Ben Samuels

WASHINGTON - U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday spoke with both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, updating both on diplomatic efforts to deescalate tensions amid the latest flare-up of violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

According to a White House readout of the conversation, Biden raised concerns about the safety and security of journalists and reinforced the need to ensure their protection. Press Secretary Jen Psaki said earlier that the U.S. had "communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility" after Israeli strikes destroyed a Gaza building housing international media outlets.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with AP's CEO and President Gary Pruitt after the Israeli strike, according to a State Department statement, "offering his unwavering support for independent journalists and media organizations around the world and noted the indispensability of their reporting in conflict zones." Blinken also expressed relief that the Associated Press team on the ground in Gaza remains safe.

Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield echoed Biden's comments, saying "as [the president] reinforced today, journalists must be respected and protected from violence."

Biden also shared his "grave concern" about the intercommunal violence across Israel — a topic not mentioned by the Prime Minister's Office summary of the call — and welcomed statements by both Netanyahu and other leaders opposing such hateful acts. Biden also "encouraged continued steps to hold violent extremists accountable and to establish calm." 

Biden discussed current tensions in Jerusalem with both Netanyahu and Abbas and "expressed their shared desire for Jerusalem to be a place of peaceful coexistence for people of all faiths and backgrounds." Biden also voiced his concern about violent confrontations in the West Bank, according to the White House statement, expressing his support for "steps to enable the Palestinian people to enjoy the dignity, security, freedom, and economic opportunity that they deserve and affirmed his support for a two-state solution."

Biden reaffirmed his strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza, the readout added, noting that he condemned these indiscriminate attacks against towns and cities across Israel. Biden also noted to Netanyahu the loss of innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians alike.

In his first conversation with Abbas since becoming president, Biden highlighted the recent U.S. decision to resume assistance to the Palestinian people, including economic and humanitarian assistance to benefit Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Biden also underscored to Abbas his strong commitment to a negotiated two-state solution as the best path to reach a just and lasting resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to the White House statement. 

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