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Washington: US President Joe Biden has used a rare address in the Oval Office to make the case that walking away from the wars in Israel and Ukraine would jeopardise global security and democracy.
But he faces internal dissent as he seeks to deepen American involvement in the wars in Israel and Ukraine.
Fresh from his whirlwind trip to Tel Aviv, Biden used the speech on Friday (AEDT) to request more than $US100 billion ($158 billion) from Congress to deliver aid and resources to both countries, along with more money for Taiwan, which is under threat from China, and for the US-Mexico border, which thousands of migrants are illegally crossing every day.
Declaring that the world was facing an “inflection point in history”, Biden said the designated Palestinian terrorist group Hamas and Russian President Vladimir Putin represented “different threats” but both wanted to “completely annihilate a neighbouring democracy”.
President Joe Biden speaks from the Oval Office of the White House on Friday (AEDT).Credit: AP
“History has taught us when terrorists don’t pay a price for their terror… they cause more chaos and death and destruction,” he said. “They keep going and the cost of the threats to America and the world keep rising.
“What would happen if we walked away? We are the essential nation.”
In a sign of the significance of the moment, it was only the second time the president has delivered an address to the nation from the Oval Office.
However, it comes at a time when his own party is beginning to fray over the Israeli conflict, and as protests escalate over the looming humanitarian crisis in the Middle East. Enthusiasm to keep supporting the war in Ukraine is also waning among Republicans and Americans more broadly.
Eli Albag cries over the photograph of his daughter Liri, as he gathers with others during a protest in Tel Aviv demanding the release of dozens of Israelis who were abducted by Hamas attack.Credit: AP
On Friday (AEDT), a US warship shot down three missiles and several drones in the northern Red Sea. The Pentagon said they had been launched from Yemen and were potentially heading towards targets in Israel.
On Thursday, chaos erupted in Washington when pro-Palestinian and Jewish protesters entered a building at the US Capitol complex demanding an Israeli ceasefire.
Democrat Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian-American member of Congress and a regular critic of Israel, had addressed them at a rally before the sit-in, calling out the White House while telling protesters: “We are literally watching people commit genocide and killing a vast majority, just like this, and we still stand by and say nothing.
“I think the White House and everyone thinks we’re just gonna sit back and let this just continue to happen. No!”
Other Democrats, such as Indiana congressman Andre Carson also called for a ceasefire, or reposted a message from Pope Francis in which he called the situation in Gaza “desperate” and demanded that “the weapons be silenced”.
Demonstrators protest inside the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday.Credit: AP
Biden, however, has been unequivocal in his support for Israel, ever since it was attacked by Hamas in a brutal incursion that has so far resulted in more than 1400 Israeli deaths and 203 Israelis being taken hostage.
Dozens of Americans have also been killed in the conflict and many remain missing or held hostage.
“As I told the families of Americans being held captive by Hamas, we’re pursuing every avenue to bring their loved ones home. As president, there is no higher priority for me than the safety of Americans held hostage,” he said.
Biden’s comments come one day after he visited Tel Aviv where he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and brokered a deal to deliver some humanitarian assistance to Gaza.
But on home soil, he has received mixed reaction to his response as tensions between the two sides escalate.
One Biden administration official, who worked in a State Department unit responsible for transferring arms to allied nations, even resigned in protest, citing the “continued lethal assistance to Israel”.
Congress also remains paralysed without a speaker due to Republican infighting – something Biden alluded to in his address:
“Tonight there are innocent people all over the world who hope because of us, who believe in a better life because of us, who are desperate not to be forgotten.
“But time is of the essence. I know we have our divisions at home. We have to get past it. We can’t let petty partisan angry politics get in the way our responsibilities a great nation.”
More coverage of the Hamas-Israel conflict
- Cascading violence: Tremors from the Hamas attacks and Israel’s response have reached far beyond the border. But what would all-out war in the Middle East look like?
- The human cost: Hamas’ massacre in Israel has traumatised – and hardened – survivors. And in Gaza, neighourhoods have become ghost cities.
- “Hamas metro”: A labyrinthine network of tunnels, snakes under war-ravaged Gaza, which the Palestinian militant group has commanded for 16 years. The covert corridors have long provided essential channels for the movement of weapons and armed combatants.
- What is Hezbollah?: As fears of the conflict expanding beyond Israel and Hamas steadily rise, all eyes are on the militant group and political party that controls southern Lebanon and has been designated internationally as a terrorist group. How did it form and what does Iran have to do with it?
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