U.S. President Joe Biden pledged to Israel that it would never be alone during parting remarks from Tel Aviv on Wednesday afternoon after a one-day visit, when he met with Israel’s leaders, as well as families of hostages and survivors of the Oct. 7 attack on Israel’s south.
Just before departing at around 6 p.m. Israel time after a stop of less than eight hours, Biden delivered a speech in which he expressed sympathy for the losses Israel suffered during the Oct. 7 rampage by the Hamas terror group, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and the capture of at least 199 more Israelis, now held hostage in the Gaza Strip.
“Hamas committed atrocities that recall the worst ravages of ISIS, unleashing pure unadulterated evil upon the world,” Biden declared. “We’ve seen it described as Israel’s 9/11. But for a nation the size of Israel, it was like fifteen 9/11s,” Biden said.
The wound Israel suffered would “cut deep” in any country but cuts deeper in Israel, he said, noting that the murders occurred on a Jewish holiday, surfacing memories of “millennia of antisemitism” and the Holocaust.
“The world watched then. It knew, and the world did nothing. We will not stand by and do nothing again,” he said.
“We’re going to make sure you have what you need to protect your people, to defend your nation,” the president said, adding that he was going to ask the U.S. Congress “for an unprecedented support package for Israel’s defense. We’re going to keep your Iron Dome fully supplied so it can continue standing sentinel over Israeli skies, saving Israeli lives.”
Biden also referred to the two U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups sent to the Eastern Mediterranean, reiterating his warning to other actors in the region not to take advantage of Israel’s weakened position to strike at the Jewish state.
Controversial aid to Palestinians in Gaza, Judea and Samaria
Although Israel has a long record of avoiding civilian casualties, the president nevertheless noted to Israel the importance of not targeting non-combatants in the Gaza Strip.
“You’re a Jewish state. You’re also a democracy. Like the United States, you don’t live by the rules of terrorists. You live by the rule of law,” he said. “You can’t give up what makes you who you are. You give that up, and the terrorists win.”
“The vast majority of Palestinians are not Hamas. Hamas does not represent Palestinian people,” he added.
“Today, I asked the Israeli cabinet I met with for some time this morning to agree to deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance to Gaza based on the understanding that there’ll be inspections so that the aid should go to civilians, not Hamas,” he said.
The Prime Minister’s Office announced just prior to Biden’s speech that the wartime cabinet decided “in light of the overwhelming and vital American support for the war effort and in light of U.S. President Biden’s demand for basic humanitarian aid” that Israel would not block humanitarian supplies from Egypt.
The cabinet also conditioned those supplies on the promise that they won’t reach Hamas. It said that no supplies will be allowed from Israel’s territory until the hostages are returned.
Critics say there’s no way to ensure that humanitarian aid doesn’t go to Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, calling any such aid effectively a resupply of the terror group.
Biden also announced that the United States would provide $100 million in new funding for humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in Gaza, as well as in Judea and Samaria.
The president concluded by reaffirming his commitment to the two-state solution: “These attacks only strengthened my commitment, determination and my will to get that done.”