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As Biden Shifts on Israel, Top Aide Expresses Regret for ‘Missteps’

In a closed-door meeting with Arab American leaders in Michigan this week, one of President Biden’s top foreign policy aides acknowledged mistakes in the administration’s response to the war in Gaza, saying he did not have “any confidence” that Israel’s government was willing to take “meaningful steps” toward Palestinian statehood.

The remarks came after months of public and private admonitions from the Biden administration for Israel to take a more surgical approach in a conflict that has killed more than 27,000 Palestinians, according to health authorities in Gaza. On Thursday, Mr. Biden himself declared that Israel had gone “over the top” in its response to the Hamas attack on Oct. 7.

The Biden aide, Jon Finer, a deputy national security adviser, offered some of the administration’s clearest expressions of regret for what he called “missteps” it had made from the beginning of the violence, and he pledged that it would do better.

During the meeting on Thursday with Arab American political leaders in Dearborn, Mich., Mr. Finer said, “We are very well aware that we have missteps in the course of responding to this crisis since Oct. 7,” according to a recording of the gathering obtained by The New York Times. A National Security Council official confirmed the recording was authentic.

Mr. Finer added: “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. And that began, frankly, pretty early in the conflict.”

Protesters in Dearborn on Thursday criticized the Biden administration’s continued funding of the Israeli military.Credit…Nick Hagen for The New York Times

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