President Joe Biden condemned the deadly surprise attacks by the Palestinian militant group Hamas as an assault by a “terrorist organization” and pledged “rock solid” US support for Israel.
(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden condemned the deadly surprise attacks by the Palestinian militant group Hamas as an assault by a “terrorist organization” and pledged “rock solid” US support for Israel.
“Today, the people of Israel are under attack,” Biden said Saturday in remarks from the White House. “The United States stands with Israel. We will not ever fail to have her back.”
Biden said earlier Saturday in a statement that the US stands ready to offer Israel “all appropriate means of support,” but he didn’t specify when pressed by reporters what that support would entail.
The president said in his live remarks that he’d spoken to members of Congress and directed his national security team “to engage with their Israeli counterparts, military to military, intelligence to intelligence, diplomat to diplomat, to make sure Israel has what it needs.”
A senior Biden administration official who briefed reporters Saturday evening in Washington said the White House was working to determine precisely what assistance Congress needed to provide and how that might be accomplished, given the ouster last week of Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Neither Biden nor Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spelled out what support might be envisaged.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Biden in a phone call Saturday his country would launch a prolonged military campaign against Hamas and expressed confidence Israel would win, according to Netanyahu’s office.
The US is Israel’s top ally and sent $3.3 billion to the Jewish state in fiscal year 2022, almost all of it for defense, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
That made Israel the biggest recipient of US assistance aside from Ukraine, which got a massive infusion that year — almost $77 billion — to help repel Russia’s invasion.
US backing on Saturday followed some of the worst attacks Israel has experienced in years. Hamas militants launched a coordinated barrage of rockets and infiltrations that resulted in numerous deaths, injuries and captures of civilians and soldiers.
Read More: Surprise Attack on Weakened Israel Imperils Regional Geopolitics
The violence is likely to provoke a massive military retaliation against the Gaza Strip, which Hamas controls, which could turn into a broader conflict with implications for the Middle East. Netanyahu said Israel is “at war.”
Such a conflict could create a foreign-policy headache for Biden ahead of his 2024 reelection bid. Biden has argued to voters he has restored US global leadership that was damaged under his predecessor, Donald Trump.
Biden’s Republican rivals seized on his decision to grant Iran access to $6 billion in frozen funds for humanitarian purposes as part of a prisoner-swap deal, saying it emboldened Tehran and its proxies, such as Hamas.
Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, said without providing evidence Saturday that “American taxpayer dollars helped fund these attacks,” a claim the White House denied.
“Not a single cent from these funds has been spent, and when it is spent, it can only be spent on things like food and medicine for the Iranian people,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
The senior US administration official said it was too early to determine whether Iran played a direct role in planning or supporting the attack.
Israel is in talks with the US and Saudi Arabia on a sweeping deal in which Washington would offer security guarantees to Riyadh in exchange for the Saudis normalizing relations with Israel, which would in turn give concessions to the Palestinians.
The senior official expressed confidence that Hamas’s assault wouldn’t derail those efforts.
Still, Iran’s regional clout could diminish under such an agreement. Some US lawmakers accused Tehran of engineering the attacks for its geopolitical benefit.
“I am convinced that this unprecedented and brutal attack by Hamas is not only supported by Iran, it was designed to stop peace efforts between Saudi Arabia and Israel,” said South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican foreign-policy hawk.
Earlier: Biden, Netanyahu Make Peace in New York After Nine-Month Freeze
–With assistance from Ethan Bronner, Peter Martin, Gwen Ackerman, Gregory Korte and Nick Wadhams.
(Updates with comment from senior Biden administration official starting in fifth paragraph.)
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