White House Defends Biden's 'Behind the Scenes' Approach to Mideast Conflict

More than two dozen Democrats have called for an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East as the Biden administration stands by its restrained approach to the conflict.

"Sometimes diplomacy needs to take place behind the scenes," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One on Tuesday. "We're going to evaluate day by day what the right approach is."

More than 200 people in Gaza and 10 people in Israel have been killed in the latest escalation of violence in the region, according to the Associated Press, as Hamas militants fire rockets into Israel and the Israeli Defense Forces conduct airstrikes.

The escalation prompted more than 25 U.S. senators, led by Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff, to sign a letter calling for an immediate cease-fire. President Joe Biden has not made such a call publicly and has defended Israel's right to defend itself from the Hamas attacks.

"To prevent any further loss of civilian life and to prevent further escalation of conflict in Israel and the Palestinian territories, we urge an immediate ceasefire," the senators wrote in their joint statement.

Biden and his top aides have had multiple calls with Palestinian and Israeli leaders in the past week to try to deescalate the situation.

"Most of our conversations, the majority of them, will take place behind the scenes," Psaki said. "Our goal is to get to the end of this conflict."

Biden has come under fire from some in his party for not being more direct with Israel over the conflict.

"Enough, President Biden," U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat and the only Palestinian American in Congress, said in an interview with MSNBC's Joy Reid on Monday. "You will not do this on our watch. You have to speak out against this violence in a very aggressive way that holds Netanyahu and his leadership accountable."

Tlaib joined Biden in Michigan during a visit to an automobile manufacturer on Tuesday.

Without directly addressing the Middle East conflict or opining on Israel, Biden praised the congresswoman as an ardent advocate and vowed to help look out for her family members who still live in the West Bank territory.

"I admire your intellect, I admire your passion and I admire your concern for so many people," Biden told Tlaib, who was in the crowd at the start of his public remarks promoting his infrastructure plan.

Reporters traveling with the president also spotted Biden and Tlaib engaged in a private conversation when she met him at the airport before the public event.

Biden pursues "quiet diplomacy" in Mid-East conflict
Fire and smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City as Israeli warplanes target a governmental building early on May 18. Fatima Shbair/Getty Images