Oct 10, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Inside Biden's weekend responding to Hamas attack on Israel

biden remarks white house

President Joe Biden gives remarks on the conflict between Israel and Palestine on Oct. 7, 2023. Photo: Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Biden participated in more than two dozen calls, meetings and briefings over the weekend as deadly chaos erupted in Israel and Gaza, triggering one of the most acute and dangerous foreign policy crises of his presidency.

Why it matters: Unlike Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Hamas' surprise assault on Israel came as a shock to the U.S. and its allies — testing Biden's ability to coordinate an emergency response in real-time.

  • At least 11 Americans were killed in Israel in the Hamas attack, and several Americans are believed to be among the 100+ hostages taken into Gaza by the militant group, Biden confirmed Monday.
  • The president's early response to the attack is likely to come under particular scrutiny given that GOP infighting has left Congress paralyzed and without a House speaker for nearly a week.

Driving the news: Biden was on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu within hours of an initial briefing early Saturday morning, according to a White House official.

  • After vowing to provide Israel with whatever it needed, Biden spent the rest of the morning in constant communication with his national security team, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and CIA Director Bill Burns.
  • Biden also spoke with Jordan's King Abdullah and checked in on two members of Congress who were in Israel at the time of the attack, before delivering public remarks from the White House just before 3pm ET.

Over the next 48 hours, Biden repeatedly reconvened his national security team as the scale of the atrocities — including American casualties and likely hostages — continued to emerge.

  • Biden called Netanyahu again on Sunday, shelving tensions over the prime minister's controversial judicial overhaul as he reiterated the United States' "rock solid" commitment to Israel.
  • Netanyahu told Biden in that phone call that Israel has no choice but to unleash a ground operation in Gaza. Biden did not try to press Netanyahu or convince him not to go through with the ground invasion, Axios' Barak Ravid reports.

On Monday, Biden pledged to work with Israel "on every aspect of the hostage crisis," including sharing of intelligence and U.S. expertise.

  • In the afternoon, Biden convened a call with the leaders of the U.K., France, Italy and Germany, who together issued a joint statement unequivocally condemning Hamas.
  • The White House was illuminated in blue and white in solidarity with Israel on Monday night, joining the U.K.'s 10 Downing Street, Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, the Sydney Opera House and other global landmarks.

What they're saying: "In this moment of heartbreak, the American people stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israelis. We remember the pain of being attacked by terrorists at home, and Americans across the country stand united against these evil acts that have once more claimed innocent American lives," Biden said in his own statement Monday.

  • "It is an outrage. And we will continue to show the world that the American people are unwavering in our resolve to oppose terrorism in all forms."

What to watch: Biden is scheduled to give remarks Tuesday on the attack.

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