May 12, 2021 - World

Biden: "Israel has a right to defend itself"

 President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the COVID-19 response and the ongoing vaccination program at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on May 12

President Biden during a news conference at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Biden told reporters Wednesday it's his "expectation and hope" that there will soon be an end to fighting between Israel and Hamas, which has killed scores of Palestinians and several Israelis.

What they're saying: Biden, after speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said that he hoped the conflict would be "closing down sooner than later," despite Israel's government announcing plans to scale up its military offensive.

  • Biden added that "Israel has a right to defend itself when you have thousands of rockets flying into your territory."
  • In a call with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Wednesday, Secretary of State Tony Blinken "expressed his condolences for the lives lost" in the violence and condemned the Hamas rocket attacks, according to a statement from State Department spokesperson Ned Price.
  • Along with calling for an end to the violence, Blinken "expressed his belief that Palestinians and Israelis deserve equal measures of freedom, dignity, security and prosperity," per Price.

Of note: Comments by Biden and members of his administration have angered progressives in his Democratic Party, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) who called it "wrong."

  • She tweeted that "blanket statements like these" with "little context or acknowledgement of what precipitated this cycle" of violence "dehumanize Palestinians" and imply the U.S. will "look the other way at human rights violations," pointing to the "expulsions of Palestinians and attacks on Al Aqsa" Mosque.

What to watch: Per Axios' Barak Ravid, the Israeli security cabinet approved Wednesday military plans for broadening the operation against Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

Why it matters: Israeli officials said there is no deadline for ending the operation but it will focus for now on air strikes with no ground forces.

For the record: Netanyahu said at the cabinet meeting that Israel doesn’t want a cease fire at the moment, per Ravid.

  • Both Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi added that the international community understands the Israel's actions and doesn’t put pressure on ending the operation for now.

Go deeper: Casualties pile up with no signs of ceasefire from Israel, Hamas

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