President Joe Biden said the U.S. stands by Israel and supports its right to defend itself in response to deadly surprise attacks by the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Biden in a phone call Saturday his country would launch a prolonged military campaign against Hamas and expressed confidence Israel would win, according to Netanyahu’s office.
“I made clear to Prime Minister Netanyahu that we stand ready to offer all appropriate means of support to the Government and people of Israel,” Biden said in a statement Saturday.
The president denounced the attacks as “horrific” and “appalling.” Biden said his administration’s support for Israel is “rock solid” and pledged to “remain in close touch” with Netanyahu and have his staff closely track the situation.
“Terrorism is never justified. Israel has a right to defend itself and its people. The United States warns against any other party hostile to Israel seeking advantage in this situation,” Biden said.
Israel received backing from its top ally following some of the worst attacks the Jewish state has experienced in years. Hamas militants launched a coordinated barrage of rockets and infiltrations that resulted in numerous deaths, injuries and captures of civilians and soldiers.
The violence is likely to provoke a massive military retaliation against the Gaza Strip, which Hamas controls, which could turn into a broader conflict with major implications for the Middle East. Netanyahu said earlier Saturday following the attacks his nation is “at war.”
Such a conflict could create a foreign-policy headache for Biden ahead of his 2024 reelection bid. Biden has argued to voters he has restored U.S. global leadership that was damaged under his predecessor, Donald Trump.
Israel is in talks with the U.S. and Saudi Arabia on a sweeping deal, in which Washington would offer security guarantees to Riyadh in exchange for the Saudis normalizing relations with Israel, which would in turn give concessions to the Palestinians.
Iran, which is a backer of Hamas, could see its regional clout diminish under such an agreement. Some U.S. lawmakers accused Tehran of engineering the attacks for its geopolitical benefit.
“I am convinced that this unprecedented and brutal attack by Hamas is not only supported by Iran, it was designed to stop peace efforts between Saudi Arabia and Israel,” said South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican foreign-policy hawk.
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan earlier Saturday spoke to his Israeli counterpart, Tzachi Hanegbi, White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant, according to Gallant’s office.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken was at the White House Saturday to attend meetings and call foreign counterparts about the situation, according to State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.
The attacks also come at a pivotal moment for Israel, which has been embroiled in political turmoil that has left it weakened and vulnerable. Israelis have protested for months against Netanyahu’s efforts to strip power from the nation’s judiciary.
The controversial push has also caused a rift with the Biden administration. The U.S. president has criticized it, as well as right-wing members of Netanyahu’s cabinet, and refused to meet with the Israeli prime minister for months until they sat down the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September.
Netanyahu told Biden in that meeting that under his leadership, “we can forge a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia” that would also “advance a genuine peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”
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