As violence raged between Israeli and Hamas for 10 days, President Biden spoke with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, privately six instances, conversations by which he pressed him to reply a easy query: “How does this end?”
Mr. Biden’s tactic was to keep away from public condemnation of Israel’s bombing of Gaza — and even a public name for a cease-fire — in an effort to construct up capital with Mr. Netanyahu after which exert strain in non-public when the time got here, in accordance with two individuals aware of the administration’s inside debates.
In non-public conversations, Mr. Biden and different American officers reiterated to the Israelis that they’d achieved some important navy goals towards Hamas, the militant group that fired hundreds of rockets at Israel from Gaza, together with focusing on its tunnel networks. Mr. Biden pressed Mr. Netanyahu on what his goal was, and what would permit him to say he had achieved it in order that a shorter struggle was potential, reasonably than a drawn-out navy battle.
In response, in accordance with the individuals aware of the discussions, Mr. Netanyahu didn’t lay out particular goals that he needed to accomplish earlier than agreeing to a cease-fire.
In his public feedback, Mr. Biden refused to hitch the rising calls from world leaders and plenty of of his fellow Democrats for a cease-fire, or specific something wanting help for Israel’s proper to defend itself.
Dennis B. Ross, who has served as Middle East envoy to 3 presidents, mentioned a public demand for a cease-fire might have backfired.
“Had Biden followed that advice to call for a public cease-fire, we would not have a cease-fire right now,” Mr. Ross mentioned. “All of this takes place in a political context as well. Had Biden responded to that, Bibi’s political need to stand up to him would have been much greater.”
Mr. Biden’s strategy, he added, additionally despatched a message to Hamas. “The more they understood we were not going to be pressuring Israel that way, the more they understood they can’t count on us stopping Israel,” he mentioned.
At the identical time, Richard N. Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, cautioned towards exaggerating how a lot credit score Mr. Biden deserved for setting the stage for a truce.
“About 90 percent of the reason for the cease-fire is that both Hamas and the government of Israel determined that prolonging the conflict didn’t serve their interests,” Mr. Haas mentioned. “This was a cease-fire that essentially was ready to happen.”
Mr. Biden’s technique of quiet diplomacy was meant to construct credibility with the Israelis, in an effort to privately push them towards an finish to the violence in a last dialog with Mr. Netanyahu on Wednesday. And it took under consideration the necessity to tread rigorously with Mr. Netanyahu.
Aware of the errors made by the United States in making an attempt to mediate the 2014 Israel-Gaza battle, Mr. Biden and his group didn’t need the United States to grow to be the main focus of the story. Instead, Mr. Biden tried to create house for Mr. Netanyahu, whom he’ll want as a associate sooner or later in coping with Iran, to attain his goals.
“Israel and the United States are going to have big things to work out, in particular Iran,” Mr. Haas mentioned. “The president had to be careful in how he handled Bibi. Both needed to maintain a working relationship so that if and when the Iran situation moved to the front burner, they would be able to work together.”
Mr. Biden started his conversations with Mr. Netanyahu by making no calls for. That helped to pave the best way for a gently worded assertion that got here after their third telephone name, by which Mr. Biden mentioned he would help a cease-fire, however stopped wanting demanding one.
In observe up conversations on Tuesday and Wednesday, Mr. Biden constructed up the strain by demanding privately to Mr. Netanyahu the necessity for a cease-fire.