United States (US) President Joe Biden pledged “strong” support for Israel on Saturday (7/10) in the face of what he described as a “terrorist attack” by the Palestinian militant group Hamas. A more detailed announcement regarding US military assistance is expected to be made on Sunday (8/10).
A senior US administration official said high-level discussions between US and Israeli officials about military aid were underway.
Biden described the attack as a “terrible tragedy on a humanitarian level” and said he had spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to emphasize his support.
“I told him that the United States stands with the people of Israel in the face of this terrorist attack,” Biden said in a televised address from the White House.
A protester waves the US and Israeli national flags during a demonstration in front of the US embassy in Tel Aviv, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in New York to meet President Joe Biden, on September 20, 2023. (Photo: AFP
“In my administration, support for Israel’s security is strong and unwavering,” he stressed.
“We will ensure that they get the help their citizens need and that they can continue to defend themselves,” Biden added.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reiterated Washington’s commitment. He said “in the coming days the Department of Defense will work to ensure that Israel has what it needs.”
As the attacks threatened to spark a wider conflict, Biden also warned, “this is not the time for any party hostile to Israel to exploit these attacks for profit. The world is watching.”
Biden stressed that Israel – which has received billions of dollars in arms supplies from the US – had the “right to defend itself” after Iran-backed Hamas launched air, sea and land attacks.
People see damage caused by rockets fired from the Gaza Strip in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, October 7, 2023. (Photo: AP/Moti Milrod)
The senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, stressed that it was “too early to say” whether Iran was “directly involved” in the massive Hamas attack. But he added “there is no doubt that Hamas is funded, equipped and armed by Iran and other countries.”
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas to “call on all leaders in the region to condemn” attacks on Israel. Palestine itself has a militant group that has a movement similar to Hamas, namely Fatah, which is based in the West Bank.
Trump Raises His Voice
Former president Donald Trump also spoke out and blamed Biden, without evidence. He said Biden indirectly helped fund the Hamas attack.
“This Hamas attack is shameful and Israel has every right to defend itself with extraordinary force,” Trump said in a statement.
“Sadly, American taxpayer dollars are helping fund these attacks, which many reports say originate from the Biden Administration.”
Trump’s accusations reflect Republican claims that $6 billion the US released in September to Iran as part of a prisoner swap deal was used to fund Hamas attacks.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates said on social media that “this is a shameful lie in every sense, at a time when both parties should be fully united in support of Israel’s defense.”
The aid “can only be used for the purchase of verifiable humanitarian needs such as food and medicine,” Bates added.
Fire and smoke rise after an Israeli air strike, in Gaza City, Saturday, October 7, 2023. (Photo: AP)
Israel normalized relations with neighboring Egypt and Jordan decades ago. In 2020 Tel Aviv also normalized relations with three other Arab countries, namely the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco.
The so-called “Abraham Accords” also include a series of lip service from Trump, including a promise to sell jets to the United Arab Emirates.
“We brought so much peace to the Middle East through the Abraham Accords, only to see Biden reduce it at a much faster pace than anyone expected,” said Trump, who plans to run against Biden in the 2024 elections.
Before Saturday’s Hamas attack, Biden had hoped to transform the Middle East – and achieve a diplomatic victory before the election – by gaining recognition of the Jewish state by Saudi Arabia, custodian of Islam’s two holiest sites.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said Saturday that “this unprecedented and brutal Hamas attack was not only supported by Iran, but was designed to halt peace efforts between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
“A peace agreement between the two countries would be a nightmare for Iran and Hamas.”
“The good thing for Israel and the world would be to respond to this heinous incident by launching an operation that would destroy the Hamas organization – not just contain it,” he added.
Biden has recently had a strained relationship with Netanyahu, and has publicly criticized him for overhauling Israel’s justice system, a move his opponents see as undermining democracy. (ah/ft)