Joe Biden praises Israel-Hamas ceasefire, vows to replenish Iron Dome and give humanitarian aid to Gaza
The president, however, denounced Hamas, saying he will ensure that the extremist body doesn't restock its arsenal
Hours after Israel and Hamas entered a truce to end their 11-day conflict on Thursday (May 20) evening, President Joe Biden promised to help both sides. In a brief address that he made at the White House, the Democratic leader promised to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome system and help rebuild Gaza, which suffered considerable damage in Israeli airstrikes. He, however, denounced Hamas, saying he will ensure that the extremist body doesn't restock its arsenal.
Biden, who recently came under criticism from his own party for remarking that Israel has its right to defense during the conflict with the Palestinians, said Washington is committed to working with the United Nations and other international stakeholders to extend “rapid humanitarian assistance and marshal international support for the people of Gaza and Gaza reconstruction efforts”. He reiterated his support for Israel's right to self-defense during the address.
“We will do this in full partnership with the Palestinian Authority, not Hamas, the PA, in a manner that does not permit Hamas to restock its military arsenal,” the president said, adding: “I believe the Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely and enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity and democracy. My administration will continue our quiet relentless diplomacy toward that end. We have a genuine opportunity to make progress and I’m committed to working for it.”
When Biden took office in January, observers felt that Washington’s excessively Israel-leaning stance as was witnessed during the times of his predecessor Donald Trump, would see a reversal. Biden had a telephonic talk with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu almost a month after taking office, unlike Trump who did it within two days of taking oath. However, while Biden reversed many of Trump’s policies in other fields like immigration, he did not do the same when it came to the latter’s Israel policies.
Biden said in his address that he held six conversations with Netanyahu over the last two weeks, including one on Thursday. The two leaders spoke over the Iron Dome system, which helped in saving several lives on the Israeli side, including Arabs and Jews, Biden said. “I assured him of my full support to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome system to ensure its defenses and security in the future,” the 46th president said. He underscored that “the US fully supports Israel's right to protect itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks from Hamas and other Gaza terror groups that have taken the lives of innocent civilians in Israel”.
Biden lauds Egypt leadership
Biden said apart from Netanyahu, he spoke with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi over his role in helping defuse the critical situation. He said Hamas told Egypt that they agreed to the ceasefire and thanked Netanyahu for accepting the mutually unconditional ceasefire. Hamas though called the ceasefire its victory saying Israel failed to destroy its military infrastructure. It also warned that its fingers will continue to be on the trigger despite the ceasefire. It said Israel must end its violations in Jerusalem and address damages that its air attacks have caused in Gaza. Netanyahu, who previously warned that he was “determined to continue this operation until its objective was achieved” in an effort “to restore quiet and security” to the Israeli citizens, also faced criticism from his hardline, right-wing base which felt he stopped the operation too early, Associated Press reported.
Hamas linked its rocket attack into Israel to weeks of tension over a court case to drive out several Palestinian families in East Jerusalem and in response to the Israeli police taking on Palestinian rioters who Israel accused of causing unrest near the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque on May 10, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Biden also condoled the deaths in the conflict that happened on both sides and sympathized with those who lost their loved ones. At least 230 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict while more than 1,700 have been injured, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Hamas and its fellow terror outfit Islamic Jihad said at least 20 of their members were killed in the attacks but Israel said the actual number was more. In Israel, the death toll is 12, including two minors and a soldier.
Al Jazeera reported that while the Biden administration had planned to take up domestic issues in its first year when challenges like Covid-19 pandemic, economic downturn and immigration have been intense, the Israel-Palestine crisis has put the Middle East back to the top of Washington’s foreign policy agenda.