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Biden expresses support for Middle East cease-fire amid mounting pressure from top Democrats

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Biden
President Joe Biden after stepping off Marine One on May 17 in Washington, DC. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
  • Biden on Monday expressed support for a cease-fire in the Middle East amid pressure from Democrats.

  • His administration had previously not explicitly pushed for a cease-fire.

  • Biden's stance on Israel is exposing a rift in the Democratic Party.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

President Joe Biden on Monday expressed support for a cease-fire in the Middle East after avoiding pushing for one, which put his administration at odds with top Democrats.

A White House readout of a call between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the president "expressed his support for a ceasefire and discussed U.S. engagement with Egypt and other partners towards that end."

This came just hours after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday joined the growing calls from Democrats for a cease-fire.

After Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Republican Sen. Todd Young of Indiana released a statement calling for a cease-fire, Schumer told reporters: "I agree with the statement put out by Sens. Murphy and Young last night in its entirety."

"I want to see a cease-fire reached quickly and mourn the loss of life," the Democratic leader said.

Over two dozen Senate Democrats, led by Georgia's Sen. Jon Ossoff, also signed a statement on Sunday calling for a cease-fire. Murphy was among the lawmakers who signed.

"To prevent any further loss of civilian life and to prevent further escalation of conflict in Israel and the Palestinian territories, we urge an immediate ceasefire," the statement said.

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Up until after Biden's latest call with the Israeli prime minister on Monday, his administration avoided any explicit push for a cease-fire. The administration instead opted to offer its assistance if both parties decided to pursue one.

"The US has made clear that we are prepared to lend our support and good offices should the parties seek a cease-fire because we believe Israelis and Palestinians equally have a right to live in safety and security," Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, said on Sunday.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday said, "We have made clear that we are prepared to lend our support and good offices to the parties should they seek a cease-fire."

The White House on Monday said that rather than publicly pushing for a cease-fire, the Biden administration was employing a "quiet, intensive diplomacy."

The US on Monday also for the third time blocked a UN Security Council statement expressing "grave concern" about the violence and the mounting number of civilian deaths amid Israel's offensive in Gaza, according to The Associated Press. Benny Gantz, Israel's defense minister, expressed gratitude to the US for blocking the statement.

"My sincere thanks to the U.S. Administration ... for rightly preventing the unjust U.N. Security Council statement criticizing Israel's actions in Gaza," Gantz said in a tweet.

Biden has also avoided condemning Israel over its military tactics, even as prominent Democrats and top human-rights groups express serious concern. The president has faced criticism from fellow Democrats over his unwavering support for Israel. The White House on Monday said that Biden in his conversation with Netanyahu "reiterated his firm support for Israel's right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks."

With the death toll rising, Netanyahu on Monday signaled airstrikes on Gaza would continue. "The directive is to continue to strike at the targets of terrorism," Netanyahu said.

As Israel has responded to Hamas rocket attacks by pummeling Gaza with airstrikes over the past week, at least 204 Palestinians, including 58 children and 34 women, have been killed, Reuters reported. At least 10 Israelis have been killed, including two children and a soldier.

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