President Joe Biden planned to use a Tuesday speech about the four-day-old war between Israel and Hamas to condemn the militant group for a shocking multipronged attack on Israel launched from the Gaza Strip that has killed hundreds of civilians, including at least 11 American citizens, according to a White House official.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke by phone earlier on Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the situation on the ground. The president was also expected to speak of the actions he and other allies have taken to support Israel in the aftermath of the attack, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to preview the president’s remarks.
He also planned to address the brutality of the militants toward Israelis who were captured by Hamas in the operation, including rape and torture, the official said.
Retaliatory strikes by Israel on the Gaza Strip have also left hundreds of dead and wounded Palestinians in the blockaded 141-square mile area, one the poorest patches of territory in the world. The death toll was expected to grow as Israel pummeled Gaza with airstrikes and sent tens of thousands of Palestinians fleeing into U.N. shelters.
The White House on Monday confirmed that it has already begun delivering critically needed munitions and military equipment to Israel, and the Pentagon was reviewing its inventories to see what else can be sent quickly to boost its ally in the war against Hamas.
The U.S. Ford carrier strike group has arrived in the far Eastern Mediterranean, within range to provide a host of air support or long-range strike options for Israel if requested, but also to surge U.S. military presence there to prevent the war from spilling over into a more dangerous regional conflict, a U.S. official told The Associated Press.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the arrival ahead of an announcement.
The Pentagon has said that the U.S. warplanes, destroyers and cruisers that sailed with the Ford will conduct maritime and air operations which could include intelligence collection, interdictions and long-range strikes.
Along with the Ford, the U.S. is sending the cruiser USS Normandy and destroyers USS Thomas Hudner, USS Ramage, USS Carney, and USS Roosevelt, and the U.S. is augmenting Air Force F-35, F-15, F-16, and A-10 fighter aircraft squadrons in the region.
Biden on Monday in a joint statement with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak underscored the “legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people” and their decades-long push for sovereignty. But the leaders also sought to separate the Palestinians’ aspirations from the “appalling acts of terrorism” by Hamas.
Americans have had a gloomy outlook on Biden’s performance on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Six in 10 Americans (61%) disapproved of how Biden was handling the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, according to an August poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. About one-third (35%) of U.S. adults approved, which was slightly lower than Biden’s overall approval rating of 42% in the same poll.
Four in 10 Americans (44%) said the U.S. gives about the right amount of support to Israel in the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Republicans were more likely than Democrats to say the U.S. should offer more support to Israel. Four in 10 Americans (42%) said the correct amount of support is given to the Palestinians. Democrats and Independents were more likely than Republicans to say the Palestinians should receive more support.
The current crisis seems certain to further test public sentiment about Biden’s Mideast foreign policy approach.
The Biden White House has pointed to its handling of the last conflict between Israel and Gaza in 2021 as playing a crucial part in limiting the length and loss of life in a war that stretched over 11 days and killed at least 250 people in Gaza and 13 in Israel.
During the 2021 conflict, Biden limited his public commentary while pressing Netanyahu in private to end the conflict. His behind-the-scenes effort played out even as some of the president’s fellow Democrats pressured him to speak out against the Israelis as the death toll climbed in Gaza and as tens of thousands of Palestinians were displaced by the aerial bombardment, White House officials said at the time.
But this conflict is unlikely to end so quickly. Domestic and international pressure could quickly mount on Biden to pressure Netanyahu to wind down operations to prevent the suffering of innocent Gazans