WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Joe Biden delivered a rare Oval Office address asking Americans to back assistance to Israel and Ukraine in the name of preserving democracy across the globe.
“We’re facing an inflection point in history,” Biden said Thursday in the roughly 15-minute address, delivered just hours after he returned from a lightning visit to Israel. He landed in Tel Aviv on Wednesday to show his support as the country wages war on Hamas, the terror group that invaded Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,400, wounding thousands and taking more than 200 hostage.
“Hamas and Putin represent different threats,” Biden said, referring to the Russian president who launched an invasion of Ukraine last year. “But they share this in common. They both want to completely annihilate neighboring democracies.”
Hamas’ “purpose for existing is the destruction of the State of Israel and the murder of Jewish people,” he said.
Biden said he would ask Congress on Friday for more defense assistance for Israel and Ukraine. He said he wanted Israel to “sharpen” its qualitative military edge to deter Iran and others from joining Hamas in the war it launched from the Gaza Strip. He also wants to provide funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.
Congress has been stalled for weeks as the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives has been unable to elect a speaker, without whom appropriations are impossible. Biden did not mention numbers, but reports have said he is set to ask for $60 billion for Ukraine and $14 billion for Israel.
Throughout the speech, Biden cast his plea for support as a vital American interest. “When terrorists don’t pay the price for their terror, when dictators don’t pay the price for their aggression, they keep going,” he said.
Biden described his meetings with Israelis who had survived the Oct. 7 invasion, and added that he urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to obey the laws of war. He noted his efforts to get humanitarian assistance into the Gaza Strip. Israel has launched counterattacks from the air and with artillery that have killed more than 3,700 Palestinians, and is readying for a ground invasion of Gaza.
Biden also spoke of the threat of antisemitism and islamaphobia in the United States now that the war is underway, mourning the murder of a Palestinian-American boy in a Chicago suburb.
“The Oct. 7 terror attacks have triggered deep scars and terrible memories in the Jewish community,” Biden said. “Today, Jewish families are worried about being targeted in school, wearing symbols of their faith walking down the street, or going out about their daily lives.”