President Joe Biden spoke to the nation in a rare prime-time address Thursday, explaining why he believes it’s crucial for Israel and Ukraine to win the respective wars they’re fighting, as he looks to build support for a hefty aid package aimed at strengthening both countries.
Though Israel endured a horrifying attack from Hamas militants on Oct. 7, Biden said that he cautioned Israelis not to repeat the mistakes an angered U.S. made after terrorists attacked the country on Sept. 11, 2001, an apparent reference to the prolonged U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“When I was in Israel yesterday, I said that when America experienced the hell of 9/11, we felt enraged, as well,” Biden said. “While we sought and got justice, we made mistakes. So I cautioned the government of Israel not to be blinded by rage.”
Biden’s Oval Office speech followed a quick visit Wednesday to Tel Aviv, where he met with Israeli leaders and discussed the next phase of a counterattack in Gaza that began with an aerial bombardment and may now shift to a risky ground incursion.
As with his trip to Ukraine in February, Biden ventured to an active war zone to show his solidarity with a U.S. ally battling an enemy that wants to wipe it out of existence.
“The terrorist group Hamas unleashed pure unadulterated evil in the world,” Biden said in his address. “But sadly, the Jewish people know perhaps better than anyone that there is no limit to the depravity of people when they want to inflict pain on others.”
He added that “Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people.”
Biden sought to connect the two distant wars for an audience that might not see why U.S. interests are at stake. Both Hamas and Russian President Vladimir Putin aim to destroy neighboring democracies, and if they succeed they’re bound to feel emboldened and look for more conquests, Biden said.
“History has taught us that 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. They keep going, and the costs of the threats to America and the world keep rising,” he said.
Biden’s remarks also had a more immediate and practical purpose. He wants to put pressure on Congress to approve an emergency funding package that his administration plans to submit Friday. Biden may request $60 billion in aid to Ukraine and a total of $40 billion for Israel, Taiwan and the U.S.-Mexico border, people familiar with the matter said this week.
“It’s a smart investment that’s going to pay dividends for American security for generations,” he said. “We’re going to make sure other hostile actors in the region know that Israel is stronger than ever and prevent this conflict from spreading.”
Biden is in a weakened posture as he tries to shape public opinion toward the wars. A CNBC poll taken this month found that only 31% of Americans approved of Biden’s handling of foreign policy, compared to 60% who disapproved.
He spoke to Americans who appear to be tiring of the war in Ukraine, which started in February 2022 with Russia’s invasion. A Reuters/Ipsos poll this month found that 41% agreed with the statement that the U.S. should provide weapons to Ukraine — down from 46% in May.
The U.S. has sent about $44 billion in security aid to Ukraine since Russia first rolled its tanks toward Kyiv, according to the State Department.
Ahead of the speech, Biden spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy about the status of the war with Russia, according to a White House readout of the conversation.
Source: NBC News