John Kirby Grapples with Reporters: Defends Israel's 'Intent'


John Kirby Grapples with Reporters: Defends Israel's 'Intent'
© Getty Images News/Chip Somodevilla

The White House found itself in a challenging position trying to align President Joe Biden's candid remarks with its official stance on Israel's military actions in Gaza. President Biden, in a statement to donors, referred to Israel's offensive as "indiscriminate," a description that seems at odds with the administration's insistence on Israel's intention to limit civilian casualties.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby faced a volley of questions from reporters, particularly about Biden's blunt assertion that Israel's approach could be costing it global support. Kirby's responses were a tightrope walk, balancing the administration's recognition of Israel's stated objectives with the realities of warfare.

The Complexity of War and Intent

Kirby highlighted a fundamental aspect of military operations: even the most carefully laid plans can go awry. Drawing parallels with American experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, he acknowledged that despite intentions, civilian casualties can occur.

This point underscores the inherent complexities and unpredictability of warfare, regardless of a nation's strategic objectives. The spokesperson reaffirmed Israel's public admissions of its efforts to minimize civilian harm.

However, the dichotomy between these efforts and the ongoing civilian casualties in Gaza remains a critical point of discussion. Kirby reiterated the administration's encouragement towards reducing these casualties, underlining a nuanced understanding of the situation.

Biden's Perspective on Netanyahu and Israeli Democracy

An intriguing aspect of this discourse is Biden's remarks about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, suggesting a need for change in the Israeli government. Kirby responded by emphasizing Israel's status as a vibrant democracy, where any governmental change would be a decision of the Israeli people.

He carefully avoided elaborating on Biden's specific comment, maintaining diplomatic decorum.

“The president realizes that Israel is a powerful, vibrant democracy and any change in the government is going to have to be determined by the Israeli people,” Kirby responded.

He did not elaborate on what Biden meant by his comment.

In his speech, Biden recounted a conversation with Netanyahu, drawing historical parallels to illustrate the evolution of international norms post-World War Two. Despite referring to Netanyahu as "a good friend," Biden’s comments implied a need for a shift in approach, possibly hinting at broader changes in diplomatic relations and military strategies.

“It was pointed out to me — I’m being very blunt with you all — it was pointed out to me that — by Bibi — that ‘Well, you carpet-bombed Germany. You dropped the atom bomb. A lot of civilians died.’ I said, ‘Yeah, that’s why all these institutions were set up after World War Two to see to it that it didn’t happen again — it didn’t happen again,’” Biden said, according to the official White House transcript of the event.

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