President Joe Biden insisted Friday there has been “no shift” in U.S. support of Israel’s security as progressive Democrats call for a firmer stance in response to Israeli’s mistreatment and killing of Palestinians.
During a news conference with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Biden was asked by a reporter whether he recognized “a shift in evolution in your party” on the issue of Israel and the Palestinian people.
“There is no shift in my commitment to the security of Israel period. No shift, not at all,” said Biden, who added that calling for a “two-state solution” was “the only answer.”
Biden said he had spoken with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and had said that the U.S. would “provide for security” in the West Bank. He also said he had told the Israelis they should “stop in Jerusalem this inter-communal fighting, with extremes on both sides — it has to end.”
The president said he would “attempt to put together” a package of support with other nations to rebuild homes in Gaza destroyed by Israeli airstrikes “without providing Hamas the ability to rebuild their weapons system,” adding that civilians in Gaza “need the help.”
“I think that my party still supports Israel,” Biden said. “Let’s get something straight here: Until the region says unequivocally they acknowledge the right of Israel to exist as an independent Jewish state, there will be no peace.”
A cease-fire between Israel and Hamas was reached Thursday after 11 days of conflict. Amid the recent violence, more than 240 Palestinians, including 66 children, were killed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, and more than 20 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank, according to local officials. In Israel, 12 people, including two children, were killed by Hamas rockets.
Throughout the conflict, Biden and other U.S. leaders repeatedly released statements affirming support for Israel’s “right to defend itself” and condemning Hamas’s rocket attacks but making no mention of the disproportionate death toll for Palestinians. Nor did Biden mention the events that preceded the escalated violence: the planned eviction of Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, which led to protests, and Israeli police’s crackdown on protesters, injuring worshippers and unleashing tear gas in Al-Aqsa mosque during Ramadan.
Over the past weeks, progressive Democrats have been more critical of Israel, with several calling for the U.S. to place conditions on military aid to the country.
Earlier this week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation attempting to block a $735 million arms sale from the U.S. to Israel.
Last week, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who is Palestinian American, took to the House floor along with other progressive lawmakers and condemned how Palestinians were “being killed as the world watches,” as well as criticizing U.S. leaders’ failure to acknowledge Palestinians’ suffering at the hands of Israel.
“No child, Palestinian or Israeli, whoever they are, should ever have to worry that death will rain from the sky. How many of my colleagues are willing to say the same, to stand for Palestinian human rights as they do for Israeli?” Tlaib said. “How many Palestinians have to die for their lives to matter?”
In Friday’s news conference, another reporter asked Biden if he had any expectation that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would “bolster the rights of the Palestinian people in some way.”
Biden responded that he is “praying” the cease-fire will hold and that the Israeli prime minister had “never broken his word” to him.
“Hamas is a terrorist organization,” Biden said. “But that doesn’t mean we should not be in Gaza, rebuilding Gaza for all those innocent people who in fact have been hurt and had been collateral damage, to the loss of homes and the whole range of other things.”
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