U.S. President Joe Biden delivered an Oval Office address Thursday night calling for additional military aid to Israel as his administration faces growing internal dissent over the transfer of arms to an ally that is committing war crimes in the occupied Gaza Strip and fueling a humanitarian catastrophe.
Biden is expected to ask Congress to approve $14 billion in military assistance for Israel, which already receives roughly $4 billion in military aid from the U.S. each year. The aid request will come on top of weaponry that the U.S. shipped to Israel in the wake of Hamas’ October 7 attack.
“The security package I’m sending to Congress and asking Congress to do is an unprecedented commitment to Israel’s security that will sharpen Israel’s qualitative military edge,” the president said in his speech. “We’re going to make sure Iron Dome continues to guard the skies over Israel. We’re going to make sure other hostile actors in the region know that Israel is stronger than ever and prevent this conflict from spreading.”
Biden’s remarks came amid growing domestic protests against his administration’s commitment to arming the Israeli military as it relentlessly bombs Gaza, killing thousands of civilians and decimating the besieged territory’s infrastructure — from schools to residential buildings to healthcare facilities.
“Biden’s unconditional support for Israel as Israeli officials threaten a genocide in Gaza is reckless and unconscionable,” IfNotNow, one of the Jewish-American groups that helped organize the protest, said Thursday following Biden’s speech. “The aid he pledged to Israel will no doubt be used to commit war crimes. We need cease-fire and hostage release now, not fuel on the flames.”
Roughly 24 hours before Biden’s Oval Office address, senior U.S. State Department official Josh Paul resigned in protest of the administration’s arms transfers to Israel, whose indiscriminate bombing of Gaza has drawn global outrage.
Paul’s resignation appears to be part of an intensifying revolt inside the U.S. government. HuffPost reported Thursday that some officials believe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken “are overlooking widespread internal frustration” and seem “uninterested in their own experts’ advice as they focus on supporting Israel’s expanding operation in Gaza.”
One unnamed State Department official told the outlet that “there’s basically a mutiny brewing within State at all levels.” Two officials told HuffPost that U.S. diplomats are crafting a “dissent cable” criticizing the administration’s policy.
“Such cables are seen within the State Department as consequential statements of serious disagreement at key historical moments,” HuffPost noted. “The dissent channel was established amid deep internal conflict during the Vietnam War, and diplomats have since then used it to warn that the U.S. is making dangerous and self-defeating choices abroad.”
A CBS/YouGov survey released Thursday showed that 52% of U.S. voters — including 53% of Democrats — oppose sending more weaponry to Israel.
“Many young voters and Muslims and Arabs in swing states like Michigan will likely sit out the 2024 election or vote for a third party if Biden continues to take this incredibly risky bet on Netanyahu’s far-right regime,” Democratic strategist Waleed Shahid said in response to the survey. “Biden’s on a path of political suicide … and will alienate so many parts of his base ahead of 2024 simply to green-light Netanyahu’s revenge plan which echoes the worst parts of Bush’s reckless War on Terror.”
Earlier this week, a group of House progressives led by Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) introduced a resolution demanding a cease-fire in Israel and Gaza. The resolution is currently backed by just 16 House Democrats.
Hundreds of Muslim and Jewish U.S. congressional staffers have signed an open letter imploring their bosses to “join calls for an immediate cease-fire,” warning that “millions of lives hang in the balance.” Rep. Ro Khanna’s (D-Calif.) political director announced his resignation on Thursday over Khanna’s refusal to back the cease-fire resolution.
Alexandra Rojas, executive director of Justice Democrats, said in a statement late Thursday that “every member of Congress should be united in opposing funding for more Palestinian and Israeli deaths — let alone funding for border militarization — and call for a cease-fire.”
Responding to Biden’s speech, Rojas said that “after over 4,100 Palestinians — including more than 1,600 children — have been killed by the Israeli military’s incessant bombing on Gaza, we would hope that our nation’s leader would try to broker peace through a cease-fire and release of hostages.”
“Instead, President Biden is greenlighting the Israeli occupation of Gaza, while demanding Congress gift the IDF even more bombs and weapons for their planned ground invasion,” she added. “What has unfolded since 1,400 innocent Israelis were massacred by Hamas has been nothing short of a calculated and intentional genocide of the Palestinian people, with the unwavering support of the White House and a majority of Congress.”
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