Lloyd Bishop/NBC via Getty Image
President Joe Biden talks with host Seth Meyers on February 26, 2024.
Washington CNN  — 

President Joe Biden warned Israel in an interview Monday that it risks losing additional international support as its offensive in Gaza drags on, though he expressed hope that a ceasefire deal could be reached by early next week.

His comments to comedian Seth Meyers aired one day before voters head to the polls in Michigan, a critical November battleground state where Arab-American activists have been pushing for Democrats to pick “uncommitted” as a way to protest current US policy. Biden, a longtime supporter of Israel, has navigated a delicate political path since the war with Hamas began in early October, but the immense death toll in Gaza, coupled with ever-increasing political pressure at home, has added to his urgency in concluding the conflict.

“Israel has had the overwhelming support of the vast majority of nations,” Biden said in an interview with Meyers. “If it keeps this up with this incredibly conservative government they have … they’re going to lose support from around the world.”

“My hope is that, by next Monday, we’ll have a ceasefire,” Biden said at an ice cream shop in New York City, emphasizing that the parties seemed “close” to reaching an agreement.

Hamas has backed off some key demands in the negotiations for a hostage deal and pause in the fighting in Gaza following Israeli accusations that its position was “delusional,” bringing the negotiating parties closer to an initial agreement that could halt the fighting and see a group of Israeli hostages released, two sources familiar with the discussions told CNN earlier this week.

Israel, however, was “surprised” that Biden expressed optimism for a deal on a ceasefire by Monday, an Israeli official told CNN, but confirmed that Israel hoped a deal would initially involve the release of about 40 hostages, including female Israeli soldiers.

“Ramadan is coming up, and there’s been an agreement by the Israelis that they would not engage in activities during Ramadan as well, in order to give us time to get all the hostages out,” Biden said Monday.

Qatar’s foreign ministry’s spokesperson, however, said Israel and Hamas have yet to reach an agreement to pause fighting in exchange for the release of hostages from Gaza, though he said he remains hopeful that an agreement can be reached before Ramadan, which is set to start as early as March 10. Regarding Biden’s assessment that an agreement would be reached by Monday, Ansari refused to answer and said the question “should be directed to the White House.”

Biden also addressed the looming Israeli offensive into Rafah, a city that has become home to around 1.5 million Palestinians that is viewed by Israel as the last stronghold of Hamas in Gaza.

“In the meantime, there are too many innocent people that are being killed. Israel has slowed down the attacks and Rafah,” Biden said. “They have to, and they’ve made a commitment to me they’re going to see to it that there’s an ability to evacuate significant portions of Rafah before they go and take out the remainder of Hamas.”

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told CNN later Tuesday that the US won’t support Israel’s planned offensive into Rafah until officials have seen a plan that ensures the safety of refugees seeking shelter in the city. The belief comes despite comments from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicating Israel will move into Rafah regardless of whether a humanitarian pause is negotiated in Gaza.

Kirby cited comments from Netanyahu earlier this month that he’s ordered Israel Defense Forces to produce “a plan for operations in Rafah– to include in that a plan for securing the safety of the more than a million refugees that are there.”

But he acknowledged the US has “not been presented with such a plan” to date.

Pressed by CNN’s MJ Lee on if the US wouldn’t support Israeli forces going into Rafah without seeing a plan guaranteeing the safe evacuation of civilians, Kirby said, “That’s correct.”

Biden has been under increasing pressure from his progressive base over US support for Israel, and Michigan’s primary on Tuesday will be the latest litmus test among Democrats over the war. Organizers there say they hope at least 10,000 people will vote “uncommitted” in the Democratic primary, a nod to the 10,700-vote margin that delivered the state to Donald Trump in 2016.

In 2020, nearly 146,000 Muslim Americans voted in the general election in Michigan, according to an analysis by Emgage, a group working to grow Muslim Americans’ political power. Biden won the state by 150,000 votes.