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Joe Biden: ‘We will make sure Israel has what it needs to defend itself’

The U.S. president, who considers the Hamas attack ‘sheer evil,’ is in constant conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Joe Biden Israel
The White House illuminated with the colors of the Israeli flag in Washington (United States), on Monday.LEAH MILLIS (REUTERS)
Macarena Vidal Liy

The United States will ensure that Israel “can defend itself today, tomorrow, as we always have,” Joe Biden said Tuesday in a speech at the White House. Accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the U.S. president was clearly angered and shocked to confirm that several American citizens are among the hostages taken by Hamas, bringing to 14 the number of U.S. victims in the surprise attack on Israel launched by the Palestinian militant group over the weekend. An attack that Biden called “sheer evil.”

The U.S. president’s address came after he spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — for the third time in four days — about the war between Israel and Hamas. “We stand with Israel. We will make sure it has what it needs to take care of its citizens, defend itself and respond to this attack. There is no justification for terrorism. There is no excuse. Hamas does not defend the right of the Palestinian people to dignity and self-determination. Their stated goal towards the State of Israel is to kill Jews. They use Palestinian civilians as human shields,” Biden said in a speech that began almost an hour and a half later than planned.

This Tuesday, Israel launched its largest air attack against the Gaza Strip in 75 years, with bombings that have flattened entire neighborhoods. Hamas had threatened to execute a hostage for every house hit. Attacks by the Palestinian extremist group have killed more than a thousand people in Israel, including 14 Americans; the Israeli wave of retaliatory attacks has killed 830 Gazans so far.

The U.S. government has been fully supportive of Israel in the conflict since the beginning of Hamas’ surprise attack on Israeli territory. A position that was symbolized in a very visual way last night, when the White House was illuminated with the colors of the Israeli flag.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with Netanyahu on Tuesday to explain their efforts to help Israel defend itself. “We connected […] to discuss coordination to support Israel, deter hostile actors, and protect innocent people,” the president said in a message on X, formerly known as Twitter, before his speech.

Immediately before that conversation, the president and Harris had met with their respective National Security teams to receive the latest details on the situation and offer guidelines on the next steps to be taken. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on the phone with his Israeli counterpart, Eli Cohen.

The United States has sent the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier, the largest ship in its war fleet, and its escort ships to the eastern Mediterranean. This was a step that went beyond Washington’s traditional role as a mere unconditional ally of the Israeli state founded in 1948 — a move that aims “to send a clear, unequivocal message to any actor or nation-state that thinks that this is a chance to try to take advantage of the position that Israel finds itself in,” as National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in a conversation with journalists on Monday.

Kirby was alluding to Iran, the great protector of Hamas. The United States fears that Tehran could take advantage of the troubled waters and spread the conflict throughout the region. The Biden administration has also indicated that it will respond to new Israeli requests for security assistance as quickly as possible and that a first aid package, mainly ammunition and air defense equipment, is “already on the way.”

Much of this assistance was already being prepared, as part of the annual U.S. contributions to Israeli security, although delivery has now been accelerated. Since 2016, the United States and Israel have maintained an understanding by which Washington provides $38 billion in military aid to Israel until 2028. Other additional aid will need the approval of Congress, similar to the case with what the United States sends to Ukraine. The White House has indicated that it is willing to go to Capitol Hill to raise funds for both countries. “We are a large enough, big enough, economically viable and vibrant enough country to be able to support both,” Kirby declared.

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