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Biden to Israel: ‘You Will Never Be Alone’

Netanyahu praised Biden for being the first U.S. president to visit Israel during a war.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomes President Joe Biden at Ben-Gurion Airport, Oct. 18, 2023. (Credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO)

U.S. President Joe Biden pledged to Israel that it would never be alone during parting remarks from Tel Aviv on Wednesday afternoon, October 18 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 15 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, Yehuda and Shomron

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 President [Joe] Biden’s request, Israel will not prevent humanitarian assistance from Egypt as long as it is only food, water and medicine for the civilian population located in the southern Gaza Strip or which is evacuating to there,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced. “Any supplies that reach Hamas—will be prevented.”

Jerusalem also said it would not allow any aid to be delivered via Israeli territory until the hostages being held by terrorist groups are released.

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.

“It is critical that aid begin flowing into Gaza as soon as possible,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressed earlier this week, adding that Washington shares Israel’s concern that the aid will fall into the hands of Hamas, and promising that if that happens, “we’ll be the first to condemn it. And we will work to prevent it from happening again.”

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 Yehuda and Shomron.

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.”

 

Biden’s Arrival

Biden praised the Israeli people’s wartime posture upon his arrival to the Jewish state earlier on Wednesday.

“To the people of Israel, your courage and commitment is stunning. I’m proud to be here,” the American president said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greeted Biden at the Ben-Gurion Airport tarmac along with President Isaac Herzog and other senior officials, before heading to the Kempinski Hotel on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in Tel Aviv to speak to the media.

“Mr. President, Joe, I want to thank you for coming here today and for the unequivocal support you have given Israel during these trying times. A support that reflects the overwhelming will of the American people,” Netanyahu told Biden.

“I have seen your support every day in the depth and breadth of cooperation that we have had since the beginning of this war. A level of cooperation that is truly unprecedented in the history of the great alliance between our two nations.

“Above all, Mr. President, the world sees that support in the moral clarity that you have demonstrated from the moment that Israel was attacked. You have rightly drawn a clear line between the forces of civilization and the forces of barbarism. You described what Hamas did as sheer evil. It is exactly that,” Netanyahu added.

“October 7 is another day that will live in infamy,” Netanyahu said, praising Biden for visiting Israel during a war.

“For the people of Israel, there is only one thing better than having a true friend like you with Israel, and that is standing in Israel as the first U.S. sitting president to visit Israel in a time of war; it is deeply moving and speaks to the depth of support for Israel,” Netanyahu said.

“Thank you, Mr. President, for standing with Israel today, tomorrow and always.”

Biden said that it was important for him to visit Israel so that the “people of Israel and people of the world know where the U.S. stands. I wanted to personally come and make it clear.”

Hamas “makes ISIS look rational” and has “brought Palestinians only suffering,” he continued.

“Americans are grieving with you, and Americans are worried. It is not an easy field to navigate,” Biden said.

The president briefly mentioned Tuesday night’s explosion outside of a hospital in Gaza that Hamas blamed on Israel but which the IDF said was caused by a failed Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket launch.

“I’m deeply saddened and outraged by the hospital blast, which appears to be done by the other team,” Biden said.

The U.S. president had announced his wartime trip to Israel on Monday “to stand in solidarity in the face of Hamas’ brutal terrorist attack.”

Israel National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi defined Israel’s war goals in a Monday press briefing as the destruction of Hamas “as a governing body, as a military body, as a relevant body that threatens the lives of our citizens.”

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