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President Biden on Tuesday had a conversation with Israel critic Rep. Rashida Tlaib — a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement who once tweeted, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” — following his call for a ceasefire in the ongoing regional conflict.
Biden spoke with Tlaib, whose parents are from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, for nearly 8 minutes on the tarmac of Detroit’s airport as he visited for a trip to promote electric vehicles, CBS News journalist Sara Cook reported on Twitter.
Tiaib has colorfully denounced Israel’s “apartheid government” and called on Biden to scrap a pending $735 million arms sale that she said could be used to “kill children and families.“
Biden last week defended Israel when Defense Forces launched airstrikes on Gaza in response to a barrage of rockets fired at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv by the Islamic fundamentalist group. But on Monday, he urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pursue a ceasefire – which Republican critics denounced as a break with Israel.
Footage of the tarmac encounter between Biden and Tlaib was shared with TV outlets that cover the White House but was not immediately published online. Snippets of the encounter showed Biden speaking with Tlaib and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.).
According to a pool report, Biden shook Tlaib’s hand before and after their conversation. Dingell, who got a hug from the president, told reporters afterward they discussed with Biden “a lot of things.” Tlaib declined to comment.
Both sides in the Israel-Hamas conflict are reporting civilian casualties, particularly in poor and crowded Gaza, which the Islamist party has controlled since a 2007 Palestinian civil war.
Tlaib is among the most strident of a growing bloc of pro-Palestinian leftwing Democrats. In a Monday TV appearance she said, “Enough President Biden, you will not do this on our watch. You have to speak out against this violence in a very aggressive way that holds Netanyahu and his leadership accountable.”
Tlaib, a founding member of the “Squad” of Progressive Democrats in Congress, has been backed up by a growing faction of Israel critics including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (i-Vt.).
Sanders wrote this week on Twitter: “The devastation in Gaza is unconscionable. We must urge an immediate ceasefire. The killing of Palestinians and Israelis must end. We must also take a hard look at nearly $4 billion a year in military aid to Israel. It is illegal for U.S. aid to support human rights violations.”
But the White House and Biden have been careful to denounce Hamas. White House Press Secretary repeatedly called Hamas a terrorist group on Friday.
The White House said Monday that Biden expressed to Netanyahu “his firm support for Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks [and] welcomed efforts to address inter-communal violence and to bring calm to Jerusalem.”
“He encouraged Israel to make every effort to ensure the protection of innocent civilians. The two leaders discussed progress in Israel’s military operations against Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza,” the White House said, adding that Biden “expressed his support for a ceasefire and discussed U.S. engagement with Egypt and other partners towards that end.”
More hawkish Republicans criticized Biden’s support for a ceasefire. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said “all the usual suspects are wringing their hands about a ceasefire, which is the equivalent of Hamas propaganda. We’ll have a ceasefire when Israel defeats its terrorist enemies.”
Israel has not launched an invasion of Gaza to defeat Hamas.
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