Kirby dodges answering point-blank if Biden believes Netanyahu impedes peace: ‘Known each other a long time’

White House national security communications adviser John Kirby brushed off questioning Sunday regarding whether President Biden believes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is an ‘impediment to peace,’ saying the two world leaders have ‘known each other a long time’ and have an open line of communication. 

‘Does the president think that Benjamin Netanyahu is a bigot? That he’s an impediment to peace? That he should be lumped in with Hamas?’ Fox News’ Shannon Bream asked Kirby on ‘Fox News Sunday.’

Kirby did not explicitly answer, instead highlighting that the two world leaders have long known each other and that the U.S. respects Israel’s sovereignty. 

‘These are two men, leaders that have known each other a long time, Shannon, and they don’t agree on everything – haven’t over 40 years. And there are certain aspects to the prosecution of operations in Gaza, where we obviously don’t agree with everything that Israel has done. But they have a relationship where they can talk to one another, and they do, and they will again. He is the prime minister of Israel. We respect the sovereignty of the Israeli people,’ he responded.

The question comes after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who is Jewish, delivered a speech last week calling for Netanyahu’s ouster and labeling him an ‘obstacle to peace’ as war rages in Israel and Gaza since October. 

Along with Netanyahu, Schumer added that ‘Hamas and the Palestinians who support and tolerate their evil ways; the radical right-wing Israelis in government and society; [and] Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ are the other obstacles preventing peace. 

Biden later described Schumer’s remarks as a ‘good speech.’

‘He made a good speech, and I think he expressed serious concern shared not only by him, but by many Americans,’ Biden said Friday. 

Bream pressed Kirby on whether Biden agrees with Schumer that there needs to be an election in Israel and that Netanyahu should no longer serve as prime minister. 

‘The president believes it’s up to the Israeli people and the Israeli government to determine if and when there’s going to be new elections. But he does, as he said shortly after Leader Schumer’s very passionate speech, he recognizes that the leader was speaking for a lot of Americans who feel the same way about the way the war is going. We also have concerns about some of the operations and how they’re being conducted. We need to make sure that civilians are protected and secure, that civilian casualties come down, that more trucks and assistance get in and, of course, we’re still working on that temporary cease-fire to get all those hostages out,’ Kirby responded. 

Kirby’s remarks follow another interview last week on MSNBC, where host Andrea Mitchell repeatedly asked the White House official if Biden believes Netanyahu is an ‘obstacle to peace.’ Kirby dodged the question three times, which Mitchell pointed out on air before moving on with the interview. 

‘The president knows that the Israeli people get to determine who their elected government representatives are. That’s what democracy is all about, and he respects that,’ Kirby responded after one of Mitchell’s questions regarding if Netanyahu is an ‘obstacle to peace.’ ‘And he has been nothing but candid and forthright with the prime minister about ways in which we think things can be done differently, things can be done better, things can be done a little bit more stridently to get more assistance into the people of Gaza to and to reduce the number of civilian casualties. I mean, my goodness, these are two guys that have no problem being honest with one another, and I can assure you that the president has done that.’

‘Let me just say that answer – that question was not answered three times. That’s all right. That was your answer,’ Mitchell ultimately said. 

Netanyahu responded to Schumer’s speech this weekend, calling it ‘inappropriate’ and detailing that a potential election is up to Israel and its voters.

‘I think what he said is totally inappropriate. It’s inappropriate to go to a sister democracy and try to replace the elected leadership there,’ Netanyahu said in a CNN interview.

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