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Week In Politics: Biden Takes Action In Israel-Palestine Conflict

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

We're going to turn now to NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving.

Ron, thanks for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: Last week, we were together. It seemed President Biden was reluctant to get directly involved in the conflict between Israel and Gaza. Thursday, he announced a cease-fire. What changed?

ELVING: To some degree, it's the situation on the ground, as Jackie Northam has just described. It has changed. The Israelis have pursued many of what they call their aims - their goals - in fighting Hamas. And to some degree, there's been some success for Biden's negotiating approach. He always wanted a cease-fire but thought that the best way to get it was not through the U.N. or by confronting Israel's leadership or Israel's friends in the U.S., so he stuck to a strategy of low-key public statements and private negotiation, slowly building the pressure on Netanyahu's government in Israel, too slowly for many, of course, as hundreds of lives continued to be lost this week. There's physical damage that will take years to repair. But Biden has known Netanyahu for decades. On Friday, he made a point of personalizing it, saying Netanyahu had given him his word and that he'd never broken his word to him before.

SIMON: Let me ask about events in Congress. The House passed the January 6 commission bill to establish a commission to look into the January 6 insurrection - bill doesn't seem to stand a chance in the Senate, does it?

ELVING: Not much of one at this point. There seem to be Democratic votes in the Senate to pass the bill that the House approved this week - 50 of them. But they would need 10 Republicans in order to get past the filibuster, and those votes are not in evidence at this point. In the House, more than 80% of the Republicans said they don't think we need another commission looking into the events of January 6. They say there are enough people investigating already. There is strong public support for an independent commission, something like the 9/11 commission from 20 years ago. But Donald Trump spoke out against the commission this week. He said he wanted to see a commission investigate the protests and street violence that happened a year ago, when George Floyd was killed by police.

SIMON: Speaking of the former president, the attorney general of New York, Letitia James, says that her office is investigating Trump's business, quote, "in a criminal capacity," looking at real estate transactions, among other things. Does this announcement, this apparent investigation, hurt? Or in some ways, does it promote some of his political support?

ELVING: For some of his supporters, it could matter - some of them. But Trump is going to call this another witch hunt. And while that will not deter the state officials of the state of New York, it will politicize the case, much as we've seen happen before. Trump's loyalists, by and large, prefer to believe his word over his accusers, whatever the accusation. And the various media voices and opinion polls will divide as they usually do.

SIMON: The recount of the 2020 presidential votes in Arizona - I want to raise that with you. As NPR has reported, even state and county Republicans are not in support of the recount. Still, the recount seems to serve this false narrative of a flawed election. Might that political result prompt Donald Trump and others who support this movement to push for recounts in other states, even when there haven't been significant questions raised about the integrity of the original count?

ELVING: Yes, and to some degree, that's already happening. Trump is pushing for recounts in some of the other states that he narrowly lost in 2020 and playing up a rather fanciful version of what's happening in Arizona. But as you say, more and more of the responsible people in both parties in Arizona are calling this an exercise in political mythmaking that will not alter the state's votes in the Electoral College.

SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much for being with us.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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