Axis of Evil

Linking Israel and Ukraine conflicts, Biden calls for defeat of Hamas and Putin

Biden argues in an Oval Office address that it is in America’s national security interest to support Israel and Ukraine in their fights against terror and tyranny

Jonathan Ernst - Pool/Getty Images

President Joe Biden addresses the nation from the Oval Office of the White House on October 19, 2023 in Washington, D.C.

President Joe Biden drew a direct comparison between the terrorist group Hamas and Russian President Vladimir Putin in a Thursday night Oval Office address, the first time he has linked the recent attacks in Israel with the nearly two-year-old war in Ukraine.

Biden used his 15-minute prime-time speech to make the argument that Hamas and Putin have similarly sinister goals — and that stopping both of them is not just a moral imperative, but it is in the national security interest of the United States. 

“Let me share with you why making sure Israel and Ukraine succeed is vital for America’s national security,” said Biden. “History has taught us that when terrorists don’t pay a price for their terror, when dictators don’t pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos and death and more destruction.” 

“They keep going,” Biden continued, “and the cost and the threats to America and the world keeps rising.” Both Hamas and Putin “want to completely annihilate a neighboring democracy.” 

In the speech, which took place a day after he traveled to Israel, Biden announced that he will send a budget request to Congress that includes funding for both Israel and Ukraine, which he described as “our critical partners.” 

“It’s a smart investment that is going to pay dividends for American security for generations,” Biden stated. He did not say how much funding he would request, but Politico reported this week that Biden will seek the passage of a $100 billion supplemental budget package that will fund military aid for Israel and Ukraine, and include funding for some domestic priorities, including border security. Biden has also pledged to increase humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.

In both the Ukraine war and Israel’s response to the Hamas attacks, Biden argued that preventing each conflict from spreading is a key national security goal. 

“If we walk away and let Putin erase Ukraine’s independence, would-be aggressors around the world would be emboldened to try the same,” he said. In the Middle East, he noted, “We’re going to make sure other hostile actors in the region know that Israel is stronger than ever and prevent this conflict from spreading.” 

For the first time since the war between Israel and Hamas began, Biden spoke about Iran’s involvement in the conflict. 

“Iran is supporting Russia in Ukraine, and it’s supporting Hamas and other terrorist groups in the region. We’ll continue to hold them accountable,” Biden said. 

He also detailed his diplomatic conversations with Israel’s leaders and with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority. Biden did not call on Israel to change its military strategy in Gaza but offered a note of warning that echoed comments he made in Tel Aviv on Wednesday. 

“I’d caution the government of Israel not to be blinded by rage,” and to operate according to the laws of war, Biden said. He offered no similar words for the government of Ukraine in its response to Russia’s invasion.

Toward the end of his remarks, Biden turned his attention to the United States, where he said Jews and Muslims are living in fear of renewed antisemitism and Islamophobia. This week, a 6-year-old Palestinian boy was stabbed to death by his family’s landlord who was allegedly upset about the war in Gaza.

“On October 7, terror attacks triggered deep scars and terrible memories in the Jewish community. Today, Jewish families worry about being targeted in school, wearing symbols of their faith walking down the street, or going out about their daily lives,” said Biden. “I know many of you in the Muslim American community, the Arab American community, the Palestinian American community, and so many others are outraged and hurting, saying to yourselves, ‘Here we go again with the Islamophobia and distrust we saw after 9/11.’” 

Biden ended his speech with a patriotic plea to Americans to come together to support Ukraine and Israel. 

“Time is of the essence. I know we have our divisions at home. We have to get past them. We can’t let petty, partisan, angry politics get in the way of our responsibility as a great nation. We cannot and will not let terrorists like Hamas and tyrants like Putin win,” said Biden. “I refuse to let that happen.”

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