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Biden supports Israel's 'right to go after Hamas' but says Gaza aid cannot be ‘bargaining chip’

In State of the Union address, Biden continues to push for 6-week ceasefire as part of hostage deal, despite no progress in talks

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., March 7, 2024. (Photo: Reuters)

During his State of the Union address last night, U.S. President Joe Biden called on the Israeli government to do more to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. 

Biden reaffirmed Israel’s right to fight against Hamas, saying the “crisis began on October 7 with a massacre by the terrorist group Hamas.” 

“Israel has a right to go after Hamas,” Biden said, referring to “1,200 innocent people women and girls men and boys slaughtered, many enduring sexual violence.” 

He called it “the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust.” 

The president also said that the war could end if Hamas released the hostages. 

“Hamas could end this conflict today by releasing the hostages, laying down arms, and surrendering those responsible for October 7.” 

However, Biden also referred to the dire situation in Gaza. He recognized the difficulty Israel faces due to Hamas’ strategy of using human shields. 

“Israel has an added burden because Hamas hides and operates among the civilian population,” Biden stated. 

“But Israel also has a fundamental responsibility to protect innocent civilians in Gaza,” he continued. Biden appeared to accept the death figures of the Gaza Health Ministry, saying: “More than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed, most of whom are not Hamas.” 

Referring to the destruction caused by the war, Biden referred to “Nearly two million more Palestinians under bombardment or displaced. Homes destroyed, neighborhoods in rubble, cities in ruin.” 

Biden called the situation “heartbreaking,” and talked about U.S. efforts to negotiate a six-week ceasefire that would see the release of the hostages as well as more humanitarian aid into Gaza. 

The American president recently sent U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director Bill Burns to the Middle East to revive the stalled hostage release negotiations and achieve a deal before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins on Sunday.

Securing a deal with a six-week ceasefire before Ramadan has been a consistent goal of the Biden administration. However, the talks appear to have reached an impasse, as the Hamas delegation left Egypt without a breakthrough, and the Israeli team did not attend the talks, having first demanded a list of all surviving hostages with proof of life.  

During his address to the public, Biden spoke about his plan for “a temporary pier in the Mediterranean on the Gaza coast that can receive large ships carrying food, water, medicine and temporary shelters.” 

The president promised that “no U.S. boots will be on the ground.” 

He also called on Israel to do more to help the situation of the Gaza civilians. 

“Israel must allow more aid into Gaza and ensure that humanitarian workers aren’t caught in the crossfire,” he stated. “Humanitarian assistance cannot be a secondary consideration or a bargaining chip.” 

The issue of humanitarian aid has increasingly been a matter of dispute. The United Nations alleges that Israel is restricting aid into the country, although it has offered no proof of that claim, while Israel says the UN is not adequately distributing the aid that enters Gaza. 

Since the beginning of the ground campaign in Gaza, multiple reports have confirmed that Hamas often commandeers the aid for its own uses. 

Biden also reiterated his call for a two-state solution, which he called the only real solution that “guarantees Israel’s security and democracy” and “guarantees Palestinians can live with peace and dignity.” 

He also said the two-state solution is the only way to achieve peace with Israel’s Arab neighbors, including Saudi Arabia. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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