Netanyahu Insists on Rafah Offensive Despite Biden's Warning | Crooked Media
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March 19, 2024
What A Day
Netanyahu Insists on Rafah Offensive Despite Biden's Warning

In This Episode

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday reiterated his plans to do exactly what President Joe Biden keeps advising him not to do: launch a ground offensive into the crowded city of Rafah in southern Gaza. Netanyahu’s comments came after Biden directly warned him against it in a phone call, their first in more than a month. Netanyahu insists a ground offensive in Rafah is the only way to eliminate Hamas, despite the fact that more than a million displaced Palestinians are sheltering there.
  • And in headlines: Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown will face Bernie Moreno, a Trump-backed businessman, in the November election; a new report says the number of abortions in the US topped 1 million for the first time in more than a decade; and a nonprofit canceled its annual Ruth Bader Ginsberg Leadership Award gala after it came under fire for nominating… Elon Musk and Rupert Murdoch?


Show Notes:



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Juanita Tolliver: It’s Wednesday, March 20th. I’m Juanita Tolliver. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi. And this is What a Day, the pod that wants to know has anyone been able to finish the Don Lemon Elon Musk interview? 


Juanita Tolliver: I keep rewinding over and over again to the part where it looks like Elon Musk is gonna cry. Don Lemon’s like, this is not a gotcha moment, are you upset? [laughing]


Priyanka Aribindi: Normally, like, I wouldn’t support the public humiliation of someone, but in this case, yes. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yes. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I do. 


Juanita Tolliver: A thousand times yes. 


Priyanka Aribindi: On today’s show, the latest in the war in Gaza, as well as the fraying relationship between Israel and the US. Yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his plans to launch a ground offensive into the crowded city of Rafah in southern Gaza. This came less than 24 hours after President Biden directly warned him against doing so, in a call between the two leaders. Take a listen to Netanyahu. [clip of Benjamin Netanyahu starts playing]


Priyanka Aribindi: In that clip, Netanyahu told lawmakers that Israel sees no way to eliminate Hamas, which has been their goal in this whole war, without getting rid of the remaining battalions that they say are in Rafah. Rafah, as many of you know, is a city where over one million displaced Gazans who fled their largely destroyed homes across the enclave are currently attempting to shelter. Earlier this week, Netanyahu agreed to send a team of Israeli officials to D.C. to discuss a prospective Rafah operation with the Biden administration. But it appears now that they are moving forward whether the administration likes it or not. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, I feel like we can put this in the category of Biden does not control Netanyahu, once again. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. Very obviously. 


Juanita Tolliver: Tell us more about this call between the leaders and what was expected to follow. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So Monday was the first time in over a month that Biden and Netanyahu actually spoke. They used to communicate much more frequently at the start of the war. But it’s yet another sign here of the break between the U.S. and Israel over how Israel has handled this war and the mass civilian casualties in Gaza. As a reminder, since the war started between Israel and Hamas over six months ago. Over 31,000 Palestinians had been killed. And as we mentioned in our show yesterday, the UN says that by May, famine is, quote, “imminent in Gaza.” In Monday’s phone call, Biden, of course, warned Netanyahu not to carry out this kind of ground operation in Rafah. Administration officials have said that they would not support anything like this without a credible plan from Israel to ensure the safety of Palestinian civilians. But that is not something that Israel has presented at any point thus far. And as we’ve seen, as you mentioned, this is an area where Bibi is more than willing to break with Biden and with what U.S. leaders want to see. 


Juanita Tolliver: According to unnamed sources who spoke with Axios, Biden reportedly told Netanyahu that he is not trying to undermine him politically. So that really makes me think that there is a lot of questions behind the Rafah is a red line posture that Biden had before, but tell us more about the context surrounding that piece of their conversation. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Politically speaking, Netanyahu has faced several challenges lately. At home, he’s facing pressure from the families of the 130 remaining hostages taken on October 7th, who say that his government hasn’t been committed to bringing their family members home while simultaneously struggling to keep his right wing governing coalition afloat. This call on Monday between the two leaders followed two major things. The first was a meeting between Vice President Kamala Harris and Netanyahu’s chief political rival and member of his war cabinet, Benny Gantz. Just a few weeks back at a time where Biden and Netanyahu were not communicating directly. And then just last week, a speech by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who also happens to be the highest ranking Jewish American lawmaker in the US that was highly critical of Netanyahu’s leadership. Schumer said that Israel had lost its way in the war, and that Netanyahu prioritized his own political survival over the best interests of Israel. He also called for new elections in Israel last week. Take a listen to this clip. 


[clip of Democatic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer] At this critical juncture, I believe a new election is the only way to allow for a healthy and open decision making process about the future of Israel, at a time when so many Israelis have lost their confidence in the vision and direction of their government. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That speech was an extremely direct criticism of Netanyahu from the most prominent Jewish political leader in America, one that garnered a lot of pushback from Republicans and from Israel, but very notably not from President Biden. Biden actually voiced his support for Schumer, though he didn’t go as far as to say the same of these new elections. 


Juanita Tolliver: So it’s pretty clear U.S. officials are, let’s just say, struggling with Netanyahu, suggesting that– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely. 


Juanita Tolliver: –the people remove him, but stopping short of saying he should step down. It’s a lot of political hedging going on right now. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. And over the weekend, Netanyahu criticized Schumer’s speech. He appeared on American TV, telling CNN’s Dana Bash that it was totally inappropriate and an attempt to replace the elected leadership in a sister democracy. But when pressed further on whether he would commit to holding elections when the war ends, Netanyahu said only that the public would decide and that it was, quote, “ridiculous to discuss while the war continues.” We’ll continue to follow this story, but that is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break]. 




Juanita Tolliver: Let’s wrap up with some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Juanita Tolliver: Let’s start off with the results from yesterday’s primaries in Ohio and Illinois. As we go to record at 9:15 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday, former President Donald Trump and President Biden won their respective party primaries in both states. In Ohio, the AP has called the state’s GOP Senate primary for Trump backed candidate Bernie Moreno. He will go up against incumbent Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown this November, in a race that could be key to Democrats keeping their majority in the Senate. Meanwhile, in Chicago, voters appear poised to reject the Bring Chicago home ballot referendum. That’s the measure we told you about yesterday that would fund homeless programs in the city by raising taxes on properties that sell for over one million dollars. Supporters of the referendum were hoping it would provide resources for the city’s unhoused population, as well as the thousands of migrants who Republicans bussed to the city starting in 2022. 


Priyanka Aribindi: There appears to be an agreement to keep the federal government funded through the end of September. Apparently, we can all agree on something. This is news to me. But yesterday’s announcement from congressional leaders and the president came as a new shutdown deadline loomed just days away. The big obstacle was a dispute over funding for the Department of Homeland Security. But that seems to be settled for now. Still, the clock is ticking. Congress has until Friday at midnight to pass the bill, or else federal agencies will run out of money by the weekend. And it doesn’t seem entirely certain that they’ll get it done by then. It takes time to draft up the text and for members to review it. Plus, lawmakers can still raise concerns and propose changes. President Biden conveyed the urgency to pass this thing in his statement on X yesterday, saying that he is ready to, quote, “sign it immediately.” 


Juanita Tolliver: I’m looking at the clock, friend. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Stay tuned. Stressful end of the week. We’re used to it by now. We know the drill. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah. We’re good. For the first time in more than a decade, the number of abortions in the United States surpassed one million last year. That’s according to a new study released on Tuesday by the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health policy institute. Researchers found that in 2023, the first full year since Roe v Wade was overturned, abortions rose by 10% since 2020. The report found that more than 60% of those reported were done using medication. The drug combination of mifepristone and misoprostol. It also said more than 160,000 people traveled out of state to seek abortion care, and that states that border others with bans like Illinois and New Mexico saw big spikes in the number of people seeking care. The authors of the report were careful to remind readers that these abortion numbers are likely lower than the actual amount because they only cover legal abortions, not abortions that were performed, quote, “outside the formal health care system.” In related news, the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on whether to revoke the FDA’s decades old approval of mifepristone next week. And I feel like this report is just another reminder about how important access to medication abortion is, considering that 60% of people sought it as their form of health care in the past year. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Absolutely. Pro Trump attorney Stephanie Lambert, who’s charged for illegally accessing Michigan voting equipment after the 2020 election, was arrested on Monday. She was actually in a D.C. courtroom at the time, representing the former CEO of in a separate lawsuit when she was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service. Okay. 


Juanita Tolliver: Overstock?


Priyanka Aribindi: Very dramatic. Overstock, a key component of it. We’ll get back to that. A Michigan judge had issued a bench warrant for Lambert’s arrest more than a week ago because she failed to appear in state court. And this whole case is loosely connected to her own case and the voting equipment as well. Lambert was hired by the CEO, Patrick Byrne, to defend him in his defamation lawsuit that was brought by Dominion Voting Systems. Dominion claims that Byrne spread false information that the company rigged the 2020 presidential election. Just a whole lot of tomfoolery over there. 


Juanita Tolliver: Tomfoolery. 


Priyanka Aribindi: To borrow a word from you Juanita. 


Juanita Tolliver: I endorse this message. [laugh]


Priyanka Aribindi: Thank you. 


Juanita Tolliver: A nonprofit canceled their annual Ruth Bader Ginsburg Award ceremony yesterday after receiving heavy backlash from the late Supreme Court justices family for the list of honorees. The award is presented by the Dwight D. Opperman Foundation, and it’s traditionally reserved for women. But this year, the foundation expanded their list of honorees to include men. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Why would they ever do that? [laughter] First mistake.


Juanita Tolliver: Like, choices. Choices. And among those who made the cut are billionaire tech edgelord Elon Musk and conservative media billionaire Rupert Murdoch. They said not only are we going to choose men, we’re going to choose raggedy men like the bottom of the barrel men. 


Priyanka Aribindi: The worst men. Truly yes. Bottom of the barrel. 


Juanita Tolliver: They don’t have binders full of women over there, I guess. [laughing]


Priyanka Aribindi: Clearly not. 


Juanita Tolliver: The award and the foundation are not affiliated with RBG’s family directly. But that didn’t stop them from complaining about it. They were not happy to see Musk and Murdoch on the list, and demanded that the Opperman Foundation remove RBG’s name from the award altogether. Take a listen to the late justice’s son, Jim Ginsburg. He told CNN on Sunday that naming M&M as awardees was a, quote, “desecration of his mother’s memory.” 


[clip of Jim Ginsburg] I think she’d be appalled. Now when you think of trying to create a more just society, which, of course, was mom’s ultimate goal. Those are probably the last names that would come to mind. 


Juanita Tolliver: I love this read. It’s a delicate, polite read. Correct. 


Priyanka Aribindi: A salute to Jim. 


Juanita Tolliver: Julie Opperman, the chair of the Opperman Foundation, put out a statement yesterday saying, quote, “while we believe each of the honorees is worthy of our respect for their leadership and their notable contributions,” I just got to record screech right there. Wow, Julie. 


Priyanka Aribindi: What? Dot dot dot. 


Juanita Tolliver: The Foundation has decided that the planned ceremony in April 2024 will be canceled. However, she did not say whether the awards would still be handed out. They should just throw the whole award show away at this point. Like just throw it away. It’s trash. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. 


Juanita Tolliver: I just appreciate that her family went to the press office and was like, eh eh eh not my mother. [laughing] And those are the headlines. 


Priyanka Aribindi: [AD BREAK]


Juanita Tolliver: That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. When life gives you Lemon Musk interviews, then you ask life for the gift receipt and tell your friends to listen. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And if you are into reading and not just the list of people the RBG awards skipped over to get to Musk and Murdoch like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Juanita Tolliver: I’m Juanita Tolliver. 


[spoken together] And give us the RBG Awards. 


Juanita Tolliver: I don’t want anything from the Opperman family, but– 


Priyanka Aribindi: No. 


Juanita Tolliver: We [laughing] we can do something else. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’ll stick to my webby. Thank you so much. 


Juanita Tolliver: Bless. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Go back to campaigning for that. [laughter]


Juanita Tolliver: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our associate producers are Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf. We had production help today from Michell Eloy, Greg Walters and Julia Claire. Our showrunner is Leo Duran. Our executive producer is Adriene Hill. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.  [music break]