Heard at Munich

VP Harris reasserts U.S. support for Israel, defeat of Hamas

In a speech today at Munich Security Conference, Harris placed blame for ongoing conflict with Hamas, though she cautioned about the civilian death toll

Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for The New York Times

Vice President Kamala Harris, shown here at The New York Times Dealbook Summit 2023 in November, stressed the U.S.' support for Israel on Friday at the Munich Security Conference.

Vice President Kamala Harris declared Washington’s continued support for Israel in its goal of defeating Hamas in a Friday speech at the Munich Security Conference.

Harris’ remarks at the annual confab, focused on promoting the Biden administration’s vision of global engagement, come as the White House faces pushback from the left over its defense of Israel. Harris was seen by many as a conduit from the White House to the progressive left, tasked with delivering a more pro-Palestinian message to them. But her Friday speech — focused mainly on Ukraine, with a brief message about the Israel-Hamas war — took a strongly pro-Israel tone. 

“We are working to end the conflict that Hamas triggered on October 7th as soon as possible and ensure it ends in a way where Israel is secure, hostages are released, the humanitarian crisis is resolved, Hamas does not control Gaza and Palestinians can enjoy their right to security, dignity, freedom and self-determination,” Harris said. 

Among the White House’s other goals in the Middle East, she said, are efforts to “counter aggression from Iran and its proxies, prevent regional escalation and promote regional integration.” 

Asked by Munich Security Conference Chairman Christoph Heusgen, a German diplomat, whether she actually believes a two-state solution is achievable, Harris said yes — with a caveat.

“The short answer is yes,” said Harris. “But we must then put the discussion in context, starting with October 7.” On Oct. 7, Harris continued, Hamas killed more than 1,200 people and used rape “as a tool of war.”

“It is important that we remember what that was and, I will say, understand that Israel then had a right to defend itself,” Harris added. “And how it does so matters.” 

“We have also been clear that far too many innocent Palestinians have been killed, that Israel must do better to protect innocent civilians,” Harris said. She added that additional humanitarian aid in Gaza is desperately needed.

“To get to the day after, hostages need to be released,” she said. “We must understand the importance of the principles that should be applied to the day after, including no reoccupation of Gaza, no change of its geographic territory, no return of terrorism by Hamas.”

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