Joe Biden has met progressive Democratic congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, one of the harshest critics over his response to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, as he comes under growing pressure from within his party to do more to stop the hostilities.
Tlaib, a Palestinian American who is counted among the six-strong “squad” of progressive Democratic members of Congress that includes Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has urged the Biden administration to take more action to end the conflict. She has also accused Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu of committing war crimes and openly violating international law.
The White House listed Tlaib among those who greeted Biden on Tuesday when he landed in Michigan — home to a significant Arab American population — where he will visit a Ford electric vehicle plant. Tlaib represents a district in the state that includes the city of Detroit.
The two spoke for “a few minutes”, according to a media pool report. Biden later publicly addressed Tlaib during remarks at the Ford plant.
“I admire your concern for so many other people,” he told her. “I pray that your grandmom and family are well. I promise you I’m going to do everything to see that they are, on the West Bank. You’re a fighter and God, thank you for being a fighter.”
On Monday Tlaid claimed Washington was “taking orders” from Netanyahu and said the US president should condemn Israel’s military actions in an interview broadcast on the news channel MSNBC.
“Americans are standing strong and . . . saying: ‘Enough, President Biden’,” said Tlaib, as she accused Biden of enabling Israel. “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.
“It’s shocking, the hypocrisy of us saying that we need to be stewards of human rights, except for Palestinians,” she added.
Tlaib is among progressives who want the US to condition aid to Israel according to its treatment of Palestinians, something Biden has repeatedly dismissed.
The US, whose aid supports Israel’s military, has been speaking to regional partners in a bid to de-escalate the situation, but has repeatedly blocked efforts from members of the UN Security Council to make public statements about the violence and stopped short of calling for a ceasefire during the first week of violence.
In recent days progressives and pro-Israel Democrats have criticised Israeli military actions, including bombing a building in the Gaza Strip that housed international media. Israel said Hamas operated out of the building, a claim it had not supported with public evidence.
Biden has said Israel had a right to defend itself, and had spoken to Netanyahu three times since the violence flared between Hamas, an Islamist Palestinian militant group, and the Jewish state. In his most recent call on Monday, Biden expressed his support for a ceasefire for the first time. Israel conducted an intense bombing raid of the Gaza Strip hours after the two leaders spoke.
As of Tuesday night, 217 Palestinians had been killed in the Gaza Strip, including 99 women and children, according to the Gaza ministry of health. Israeli army officials said 130 of the dead were Hamas combatants, and disputed Gazan estimates that almost half of the dead were women and children. Israel has reported 10 deaths from the Hamas attacks, including two children.