Standing By Israel

Biden calls out Hamas’ ‘unadulterated evil,’ vows ‘swift, decisive’ help for Israel

White House announces 14 Americans now known to be dead, at least 20 still missing

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Joe Biden about to deliver a speech on Israel on Tuesday at the White House State Dining Room. With him are Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Tony Blinken.

In a forceful and emotional address delivered on Tuesday in the White House State Dining Room, President Joe Biden detailed the atrocities committed by Hamas against innocent Israelis and vowed to help Israel avenge the vicious attacks. 

“Our response will be swift, decisive and overwhelming,” Biden said, describing a conversation he held earlier in the day with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “There are moments in this life, and I mean this literally, when pure, unadulterated evil is unleashed in this world. The people of Israel lived through one such moment this weekend.” 

In a somber 10-minute address, Biden argued that it is a moral imperative for Washington to come to Israel’s aid at this moment. He connected the attacks — whose death toll passed 1,000 on Tuesday — to a millennia-old history of antisemitism, and vowed to stand by Israel’s side as well as to expand protection at Jewish institutions in America.

“For 75 years, Israel has stood as the ultimate guarantor for the security of Jewish people around the world so that the atrocities of the past could never happen again,” Biden said, flanked on one side by Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Tony Blinken on the other. “Let there be no doubt — the United States has Israel’s back. We’ll make sure the Jewish and democratic State of Israel can defend itself today and tomorrow, as we always have.” Blinken will travel to Israel on Wednesday to coordinate with Israeli leaders. 

Fourteen American citizens are now known to have been killed in the attack, Biden said.

“There’s still so many families desperately waiting to hear the fate of their loved ones, not knowing if they’re alive or dead or hostages. Infants in the mother’s arms, grandparents in wheelchairs, Holocaust survivors abducted and held hostage. Hostages who Hamas has now threatened to execute in violation of every code of human morality,” Biden said. “This blood thirstiness brings to mind the worst — the worst — rampages of ISIS. This is terrorism. But sadly for the Jewish people, it’s not new.” 

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters that 20 or more Americans are missing, and the U.S. has now confirmed that at least some of them are among those held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.

Biden said he had been in close touch with congressional leaders, asking Congress to take “urgent action to fund the national security requirements of our critical partners.” Sullivan announced that the White House will make a funding request to Congress for “funding for support to Israel,” including to support Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system and provide ammunition. 

When Biden spoke to Netanyahu on Tuesday, the Israeli premier thanked Biden for his “continued and unequivocal support and the work of your entire administration,” specifically citing John Kirby, the National Security Council’s strategic communications coordinator, who choked up when speaking about the atrocities committed against Israelis, according to an Israeli description of the conversation.

The prime minister said the Hamas attack was one of “savagery we have not seen since the Holocaust” and compared the deadly rampage at the music festival in Israel’s south to Babi Yar, the site of a Holocaust-era massacre of Jews in what is now Ukraine.

“We’ve never seen such savagery in the history of the State. They’re even worse than ISIS and we need to treat them as such,” Netanyahu said.

In his address, Biden did not specifically address the handful of Democratic members of Congress who have called for a cease-fire, rather than vowing to defend Israel, or comments made by Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Cori Bush (D-MO) equating Hamas’ actions with previous actions taken by Israel. But White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre made clear where the White House stands on such comments.

“We believe they’re wrong. We believe they’re repugnant and we believe they’re disgraceful. Our our condemnation belongs squarely with terrorists who have brutally murdered, raped, kidnapped hundreds — hundreds — of Israelis. There can be no equivocation about that. There are not two sides here,” said Jean-Pierre, although she did not mention any members of Congress by name.

In his speech, Biden did not mention Iran, which The Wall Street Journal reported had helped orchestrate the attack. 

Sullivan said the U.S. does not yet know whether Iran ordered the attack, but said that Iran is “complicit in this attack in a broad sense because they have provided the lion’s share of the funding for the military wing of Hamas. They have provided training, they have provided capabilities, they have provided support and they have had engagement and contact with Hamas over years and years.”

Jewish Insider senior political correspondent Lahav Harkov contributed reporting.

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