President addresses US in rare Oval Office speech and explains why country should back Ukraine and Israel.
United States President Joe Biden has said he will ask Congress for more money to support Israel and Ukraine, asserting in an impassioned speech that both nations were fighting enemies of democracy.
Speaking to Americans from the Oval Office, Biden sought to make a link between the actions of Hamas in Israel and those of Russian president Vladimir Putin who sent his troops into Ukraine for a full-scale invasion in February 2022.
Biden said stopping such aggression was crucial not only for the security of the US but also for the wider world.
“Hamas and Putin represent different threats but they share this in common; they both want to annihilate a neighbouring democracy,” he said.
He said if the US walked away and aggressors succeeded, others might be “emboldened to try the same” spreading the risk of conflict to other parts of the world.
“American leadership is what holds the world together,” the president said during the 10-minute speech, only the second he has made from the Oval Office during his administration. “American alliances are what keep us, America, safe. American values are what make us a partner that other nations want to work with.”
Biden was speaking hours after returning from a whirlwind trip to Tel Aviv, where he reiterated US support for Israel even amid its total blockade of Gaza and relentless bombardment of the Palestinian enclave of 2.3 million people.
The visit had been meant to include a meeting with Arab leaders but the talks were cancelled after Gaza’s Al-Ahli Arab Hospital was hit hours before, killing some 500 people.
Amid calls for a ceasefire, Biden was able to secure a commitment from Israel and Egypt to open the Rafah crossing for desperately needed humanitarian aid.
Biden said he would be lodging an urgent request to Congress to support Israel and Ukraine on Friday. He did not put a value to the security package but previous reports have suggested it could be as much as $100bn.
Biden’s address comes amid paralysis in Congress where Republicans, who control the lower house, have struggled to appoint a new House of Representatives Speaker after removing Kevin McCarthy earlier this month.
He said the US needed to rise above “petty, partisan, angry politics” and meet its responsibilities.
“It’s a smart investment that will pay dividends for American security for generations,” he stressed.
The conflict in Gaza erupted on October 7, when Hamas launched a surprise attack against Israel, killing more than 1,400 people and taking dozens captive.
At least 3,785 Palestinians have been killed in the bombing campaign.
Biden accused Hamas of unleashing “pure, unadulterated evil” on the world, and stressed that there was “‘no higher priority” for him as president than bringing home the US citizens being held by the armed group.
While making clear his support for Israel, Biden said he was “heartbroken” by the “tragic loss” of Palestinian lives and that he had spoken with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to reiterate that the US remains “committed to the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and right to self-determination”.
He stressed the urgent need for humanitarian assistance to the enclave and noted the agreement secured to get food, water and medicine into Gaza.
“We cannot give up on peace,” he said. “We cannot give up on the two-state solution. Israel and the Palestinians equally deserve to live in safety, dignity and peace.”
Biden’s speech at the Oval Office came after he again reassured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of US support for Kyiv in its bid to push Russian forces from Ukrainian territory.
He noted that the US was an “essential” part of a group of about 50 countries that have backed Ukraine since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion.
Will make sure Ukraine has the “weapons they need to defend themselves”, he said, stressing to his domestic audience that there were no plans to send US troops to Eastern Europe.
“When Putin invaded Ukraine he thought he could take Kyiv and the whole of Ukraine in a matter of days, but Putin has failed, and he will continue to fail,” Biden said. “Kyiv still stands because of the bravery of the Ukrainian people. Ukraine has regained more than 50 percent of the territory Russian troops once occupied.”