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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

‘I am a Zionist’ – Biden

The US will provide military aid to Israel “until they get rid of Hamas,” the American president said

US President Joe Biden expressed his “unshakable” commitment to Israel’s security at a White House reception event on Monday, marking the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. He also pledged continued military support for West Jerusalem amid its conflict with the Gaza-based Palestinian militant group, Hamas.

The US remains Israel’s most important ally amid the ongoing conflict, which has sparked widespread condemnation in the Muslim world and beyond over Israeli bombardments of Gaza. The strikes have led to heavy civilian casualties, according to local medical authorities.

Read more: Israel losing support over ‘indiscriminate bombing’ – Biden

On Monday, Biden blasted what he called a “sickening” surge of anti-Semitism both in the US and around the world amid the conflict. “We see it across our communities and schools and colleges and social media,” he said, adding that “silence is complicity.”

Speaking to Jewish lawmakers and other attendees, the president said that his “commitment to the safety of the Jewish people and the security of Israel, its right to exist as an independent Jewish state, is unshakeable.” He then vowed to “continue to provide military assistance to Israel until they get rid of Hamas,” adding, however, that both Washington and West Jerusalem had to be careful not to antagonize “the world’s public opinion.”

Read more: Hillary Clinton seeking to open hearts and pockets for Biden – NBC News

Over the weekend, the Biden administration bypassed congressional authority over military aid to Israel and granted emergency approval for the sale of $106.5 million worth of tank ammunition to West Jerusalem. The move came as the White House struggled to gain congressional approval for $106 billion in supplemental security spending, including $14.3 billion for Israel.

The US president also said that he felt an “unquestionable” connection to the Jewish community. “I ran into trouble and criticism when I said a few years ago that you don’t have to be Jewish to be a Zionist, and I am a Zionist,” he added, speaking to a gathering of some 800 people.

Last week, the US was the only member of the UN Security Council to veto an emergency resolution calling for an emergency ceasefire in Gaza. Last Friday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said “there is a serious risk of starvation and famine,” noting that 97% of households in northern Gaza and 83% of displaced people in the south “are not eating enough.”

Israel launched its military operation in Gaza in response to a surprise attack by Hamas on October 7 that claimed the lives of some 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians. More than 240 people were also taken hostage by the militants.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) responded with massive bombings of the Palestinian enclave, followed by a ground operation. The death toll in the enclave linked to Israeli actions has surpassed 18,400, according to the latest estimates by the Gaza Health Ministry