President Joe Biden spoke by phone Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, their first known interaction in more than a month as a rift deepens between the two men over the war in Gaza.

During the call, the White House said the leaders discussed two key areas where tension has emerged in the relationship, including the necessity of getting more humanitarian aid into Gaza and the pending Israeli operation in Rafah, where more than a million Palestinian civilians are sheltering.

Monday’s phone call came days after one of Biden’s top allies in Washington, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, called for new Israeli elections that would result in Netanyahu’s ouster.

Biden called the speech “good” and said it reflected the concerns of many Americans, though did not explicitly endorse nor condemn the call for new elections in Israel.

Netanyahu on Sunday forcefully pushed back on Schumer’s speech during an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash.

“It’s inappropriate to go to a sister democracy and try to replace the elected leadership there. That’s something that Israel, the Israeli public does on its own, and we’re not a banana republic,” Netanyahu said on “State of the Union.”

The Biden-Netanyahu relationship has devolved over the past several months as frustration inside the White House mounts over what American officials regard as Netanyahu’s rejection of US advice on the war in Gaza.

After speaking on a daily or weekly basis at the onset of the conflict, Biden and Netanyahu now speak far less frequently. Their last phone call before Monday was on February 15 – the longest gap in calls since the October 7 terror attacks that launched the current conflict.

Tensions have emerged over allowing more humanitarian aid to enter the strip, steps to protect civilian casualties and the future of an eventual Palestinian state.

The White House has said an operation in Rafah should not move ahead without a credible plan to protect the civilians sheltering there. As of Sunday, officials said they had not seen such a plan.

Biden said in an interview last weekend that an invasion of Rafah would amount to a “red line,” though did not delineate how he would respond and said he would never cut off support for Israel entirely.


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