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Biden says Gaza ceasefire is ‘close’

A rally in Michigan ahead of the state's presidential primary election urges a vote for 'uncommitted' instead of Joe Biden
A rally in Michigan ahead of the state's presidential primary election urges a vote for 'uncommitted' instead of Joe Biden - Jim West/ZUMA Press Wire/Shutterstock

Joe Biden on Monday said he hopes to have a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas by next week.

Mr Biden indicated during a political visit to New York that he hopes to have the agreement in place by Monday, March 4.

He was there to film the NBC programme Late Night with Seth Meyers and had been visiting a Van Leeuwen ice cream parlour near the network’s Rockefeller Centre headquarters, when he was asked if a ceasefire would take effect.

Mr Biden said: “I hope by the end of the weekend”.

He told reporters travelling alongside him that his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, has told him that a ceasefire is “close” but talks are “not done yet”.

“My hope is by next Monday we’ll have a ceasefire,” he added.

Mr Biden risks handing Donald Trump the White House with his stance on Israel, progressive Democrats have warned ahead of a key vote in a battleground state.

Mr Biden faces a rebuke from his party’s voters in Michigan, a critical swing state, which holds its presidential primary on Tuesday.

Michigan’s large Arab-American community, which helped Mr Biden win the state in 2020, has criticised the president’s support for Israel in its war in Gaza. It has led to his approval ratings sinking among Muslims and other minorities.

An effort to boycott the primary is being spearheaded by Rashida Tlaib, a progressive Michigan congresswoman. She is pushing for Democrats to vote “uncommitted” rather than casting a ballot for Mr Biden in the Michigan primary.

“You all know Trump is an existential threat to our democracy,” Ms Tlaib, a member of Capitol Hill’s Left-wing “Squad”, told a rally in Dearborn, a majority-Muslim and Arab-American suburb west of Detroit.

“And President Biden is risking another Trump term over his support for the most Right-wing government, most extremist government in the history of Israel.”

While Mr Biden is expected to win Michigan, a poor showing could be a huge electoral liability for the president in a state that is critical to his re-election bid.

Three-quarters of Arab and Muslim Democrats said they were willing to vote for a third-party candidate in November, according to an NBC poll late last year.

However, a poll by the Hill and Emerson College released on Monday found Mr Trump’s lead over Mr Biden in Michigan has narrowed to 46 to 44 per cent.

Amid panic in the White House, Mr Biden and his vice-president, Kamala Harris, have both visited Michigan in the past few weeks.

The Biden re-election team has also deployed surrogates to the state, but some community leaders have refused to meet anyone connected with the campaign.

Trump ‘promoted a Muslim ban’

Even Biden allies have sounded the alarm, and conceded the results could signal a major problem in November.

“Any vote that’s not cast for Joe Biden supports a second Trump term,” Gretchen Whitmer, governor Michigan and co-chair of the Biden 2024 campaign, told CNN.

“A second Trump term would be devastating. Not just on fundamental rights, not just on our democracy here at home, but also when it comes to foreign policy. This was a man who promoted a Muslim ban.”

Andy Levin, a former Democratic congressman for the state, said it was going to be “hard or even impossible” to beat Mr Trump, 77, in Michigan if the president “doesn’t change course”.

He added: “It seems very hard or impossible to win the electoral college if we don’t win Michigan.”

Earlier this month, Mr Biden’s deputy national security adviser, acknowledged “missteps” in the administration’s response to the Middle East crisis in a meeting with prominent figures in the state.

“We have left a very damaging impression based on what has been a wholly inadequate public accounting for how much the president, the administration and the country values the lives of Palestinians,” he told them, according to a recording obtained by The New York Times.

Despite the warnings, Democrats furious with Mr Biden’s handling of Israel’s war in Gaza have said they will not back the president unless he drastically changes course.

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, said some of her constituents had “lost 20 or 40” relatives in Gaza.

‘We want to support life’

Ms Tlaib, the only Palestinian-American in the US Congress, said: “We don’t want a country that supports war and bombs and destruction. We want to support life. We want to stand up for every single life killed in Gaza.”

Sharing a video on social media urging Democrats to register a protest vote, she said: “Right now, we feel completely neglected and just unseen by our government.”

Meanwhile, Nikki Haley made an eleventh-hour plea to Michigan’s Republican voters to “change the direction” of the GOP presidential primary on Tuesday.

Mr Trump is expected to extend his sweep of the Republican contest, with polling aggregates suggesting he commands almost 80 per cent among Republican voters in the state.