Friday, May 24, 2024

Biden calls for pause in Gaza war

(Al Jazeera Media Network) President Joe Biden has voiced support for a humanitarian “pause” to Israel’s war in Gaza as the United States presses to evacuate all Americans trapped in the besieged Palestinian enclave.

“I think we need a pause,” Biden said during a campaign speech on Wednesday, after being interrupted by a protester who urged for an immediate ceasefire.

When asked what a pause meant, Biden said it was “time to get the prisoners out” – a reference to the captives held by Hamas, the group that rules Gaza, the White House later clarified.

Biden’s comments marked a shift in the position of the White House, which has previously said it would not dictate how Israel conducts its military operations.

“We’re not drawing red lines for Israel,” White House spokesperson John Kirby said last week. “We’re going to continue to support them.”

On Friday, the U.S. was one of only 14 countries in the United Nations to vote “no” to a resolution in the General Assembly calling for a “ceasefire”.

The U.S. is by far Israel’s strongest ally, sending it billions of dollars in aid annually. To support Israel’s ongoing military offensive, Biden has asked Congress to approve a $14.3-billion military aid package to the country.

The U.S. president has faced growing pressure from rights activists, fellow world leaders, and even progressive members of his own Democratic Party to rein in Israel from its relentless attacks on Gaza, which have reportedly killed at least 8,800 people, including 3,500 children.

He is facing particularly intense backlash from Arab Americans, an important constituency in the Democratic Party, for his staunch backing of Israel in the war.

Biden’s support from Arab Americans has plummeted to 17%, according to a survey from the Arab American Institute (AAI) think tank.

“This is incredibly complicated for the Israelis,” Biden added during his speech. “It’s incredibly complicated for the Muslim world as well … I supported a two-state solution, I have from the very beginning.”

Biden’s push for a “pause” to the fighting comes as the U.S. administration attempts to secure the safe exit of its citizens trapped in Gaza, and begins speaking about the future of a post-war Gaza.

On Wednesday, American citizens were among hundreds of foreigners to begin leaving the besieged territory via Egypt’s Rafah border crossing, part of an Egypt-mediated deal to allow safe passage for the wounded and foreign nationals.

Kirby said on Wednesday he was hopeful the U.S. would get all Americans out of Gaza in the next few days.

About 400 U.S. citizens in Gaza have told the State Department they want to leave the territory and, with family members, U.S. officials say they are trying to help about 1,000 people get out.

Biden’s shift in rhetoric also comes amid a flurry of U.S. diplomatic moves in the region, including the confirmation of a new ambassador to Israel and an upcoming trip by Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Jordan and Israel.

Kirby said Biden’s newly confirmed ambassador to Israel, Jack Lew, would soon take up his post.

Lew, in a Senate confirmation hearing, said “Israel’s struggle for security” was his principal concern and he would “ensure Israel has what it needs to defend itself.”

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/11/2/biden-calls-for-pause-in-israels-war-in-gaza-for-the-first-time

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