Thursday Briefing: Biden Pressures Israel

President Biden turned up the pressure on Israel to limit its Rafah operation and to reach a cease-fire deal with Hamas. He made it public that he’d held up a delivery of heavy bombs to Israel, and dispatched his C.I.A. chief to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The U.S. announced it had withheld the delivery of some military aid to Israel last week over concerns they would be used in a possible full-scale assault on Rafah. William Burns, the head of the C.I.A., met privately with Netanyahu.

Israel downplayed the pause of the arms deliveries.

But experts said the pause showed that the bond is facing new strains, with more ruptures possibly to come amid declining American public support for the Israeli war effort. They also acknowledged that such disagreements were unlikely to change the course of the conflict. Biden has made it clear that he remains deeply committed to Israel, even as he has signaled that there are limits to U.S. aid and patience.

Details: The paused arms delivery included 2,000-pound bombs, which are among the most destructive in Israel’s arsenal. In the first six weeks of the war, the country routinely used weapons like these in areas of Gaza designated as safe for civilians, a Times investigation found.

John Podesta, the Biden administration’s top climate envoy, met for the first time with his counterpart from Beijing, Liu Zhenmin, in Washington yesterday. The talks continue today. And the stakes are high, Somini Sengupta, our international climate reporter, told me.

The two countries are at odds on a range of geopolitical issues. They are also the world’s top polluters. “If they can’t get it together,” Somini said, “all of us are fried.”

Trade tensions loom large over the talks. China dominates green-energy technology. That could “be a good thing because it makes things cheaper and can accelerate the energy transition,” Somini said.

“But it also presents risks,” she added. “The White House doesn’t want Americans — or the rest of the world — to eat from China’s hands. It gives Beijing too much power. Whether anyone can truly compete with China at this point is unclear.”

U.S. frustrations: A flood of cheap Chinese products have become a target for the Biden administration, which has warned that they pose a threat to U.S. factories.

The Olympic flame arrived in France yesterday to start a weekslong relay to Paris as the country gets ready for the Summer Games.

And President Emmanuel Macron has declared that these Olympics were built safely, free of the construction hazards and migrant abuses of soccer’s 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Government data shows fewer than 200 injuries and zero deaths at Olympic sites over the four-year construction.

But inspection records and other documents suggest a different story. Undocumented immigrants’ injuries were often handled off the books, workers and officials say, all but guaranteeing that they will not show up in government statistics. Even fatal accidents of laborers working legally were sometimes omitted from the Olympic count.

For years, Japan has promoted women in the workplace in part to cope with severe labor shortages. Some employers are trying to change a male-dominated workplace culture.

There’s been some progress: Since 2020, women have made up nearly half of each entering class of diplomats of the Foreign Ministry, and many women continue their careers after they marry. But women still struggle to balance careers with domestic obligations.

Lives lived: Kim Ki-nam, North Korea’s chief propagandist for decades, died at 94.

The war in Gaza has loomed over the run-up to the Eurovision Song Contest. Pro-Palestinian groups and many fans have tried in vain to get Israel’s Eden Golan banned from participating. She is set to perform today.

Already, some artists have tried to protest the war, even though attendees and competitors aren’t permitted to wave banners and symbols that could stir up tensions. In the first round, on Tuesday, a Swedish artist wore a kaffiyeh and Ireland’s act said they had been barred from displaying a pro-Palestinian slogan.

“The public discussion has been all around Gaza, almost to an imposing extent,” said my colleague Alex Marshall, who covers culture for The Times.

Alex told me that he does not expect major disruptions at the concert itself. Two protests are planned far from the venue in Malmo, Sweden, which is hosting the contest. He thinks audiences are more likely to manifest their opposition to Israel’s war by voting against Golan.

But for many attendees, he said, politics will take a back seat.

“Eurovision says it’s about bringing the world together in music,” he said, “and a lot of its fans believe that.”

For more: Alex thinks Croatia, which is currently leading the betting, will win. Here’s its song.

P.S. My colleague Priya Krishna wrote about finding closeness with her mom through cooking.

That’s it for today. See you tomorrow. — Amelia

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Our thanks to Alex Marshall and Somini Sengupta.

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