President Joe Biden addresses the nation from the Oval Office of the White House on Oct. 19, 2023 in Washington, D.C. Biden discussed the U.S. response to the Hamas-Israel conflict, humanitarian assistance in Gaza, and the continued support for Ukraine during Russia’s ongoing invasion. Jonathan Ernst – Pool/Getty Images
President Joe Biden reasserted his support for Israel and Ukraine in their conflicts, saying in an Oval Office address Thursday evening that those countries’ wars against terrorist and tyrannical opponents were crucial to U.S. and world interests and asking Congress to fund a military aid package.
After nearly two weeks focusing almost entirely on Israel, Biden laid out a broader foreign policy vision to oppose figures such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, who invaded Ukraine last year, as well as terrorist groups such as Hamas that launched attacks against Israel this month that killed more than 1,300, including U.S. citizens.
Such adversaries must be stopped, he said.
“When terrorists don’t pay a price for their terror, when dictators don’t pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos and death and more destruction,” he said. “They keep going and the costs and the threats to America and the world keep rising.”
“We cannot and will not let terrorists like Hamas and tyrants like Putin win,” he added.
Failing to stop Putin would only embolden “would-be aggressors around the world,” he said.
Hamas’ attack, which killed “at least 32” U.S. citizens, “unleashed pure unadulterated evil in the world,” he said.
Biden said he would ask Congress on Friday to approve an aid package to Israel and Ukraine.
The White House request is expected to total upward of $100 billion, including around $60 billion for Ukraine, $10 billion for Israel, aid for Taiwan and funding to improve U.S.-Mexico border security, according to reports.
Ukraine has asked for help with weapons and air defense systems, he said.
The U.S. plays an indispensable role in world affairs, Biden said.
“American leadership is what holds the world together,” he said.
Biden said he did not seek to have U.S. troops involved, but would deploy them to support NATO allies from Russian aggression. The Western alliance, which does not include Ukraine, requires its members to join a war if one of them is attacked.
Biden, top administration officials and congressional leaders have also warned Iran and other Middle East adversaries not to widen the war in that region. Biden has deployed military ships to the eastern Mediterranean Sea to be ready for any escalation.
The address was Biden’s second from the Oval Office. The first was in June, when he discussed an agreement to lift the debt limit.
Biden focused on the military needs of Ukraine and Israel — and the rationale for providing military aid — but added that he was also working to provide humanitarian aid.
During a trip to Israel Wednesday, Biden secured an agreement with Israel and Egypt to allow United Nations humanitarian supplies into the Gaza Strip, where Israel has launched a counteroffensive after Hamas’ attack.
Biden said he spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday and recommitted to him that the U.S. supports the Palestinian right to self-determination. The attack by Hamas, which is based in Gaza, didn’t change that, he said.
“We cannot give up on peace,” he said. “We cannot give up on a two-state solution. Israel and Palestinians equally deserve to live in safety, dignity and peace.”
Biden also condemned divisions along racial and religious lines in the U.S., noting the murder last week of 6-year-old Palestinian-American Wadea Al-Fayoume at his Chicago area home.
“Here at home, we have to be honest with ourselves,” he said. In recent years, the country has seen a rise in racism, antisemitism and Islamophobia, which have intensified since the Hamas attack, he said.
The U.S. Senate, the only chamber of Congress currently able to consider legislation, appeared Thursday to be receptive to Biden’s request for an aid package, especially for Israel.
Earlier in the day, the Senate approved, 97-0, a resolution in support of Israel.
The resolution “reaffirms Israel’s right to self-defense,” and demands Hamas release hostages — a group of about 200 that is thought to include U.S. citizens. The measure also “warns against any other party hostile to Israel taking advantage of the current situation.”
The four-page resolution also noted that the U.S. has designated Hamas as a terrorist organization that receives funding from Iran. The group has killed 1,300 Israelis and injured and kidnapped others since Oct. 7, the resolution says.
Kentucky Republican Rand Paul, a vocal foreign policy isolationist, was the only member not to cosponsor the measure, but he did vote for it Thursday. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Ben Cardin of Maryland and ranking Republican Jim Risch of Idaho were the resolution’s chief sponsors.
Schumer, the highest ranking Jewish official in the U.S., pledged in a floor speech ahead of the vote that the resolution, which does not carry the force of law, would be followed by substantial funding legislation.
“This resolution is not the end,” the New York Democrat said. “It is the beginning. The Senate will back up this resolution with real swift, decisive action and resources. Let the entire world see that today Democrats, Republicans alike stand in total unity. We support Israel’s absolute right to defend itself.”
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