President Joe Biden broke his silence late Wednesday about the terrorism plaguing Israel as the growing conflict threatens to spark a full-scale war.
In his first public comments on the two-day-long crisis, Biden said he recently spoke with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and expressed his support for Israel's efforts to defend itself from a barrage of more than 1,000 rockets launched by Palestinian terrorists. "Israel has a right to defend itself when you have thousands of rockets flying into your territory," he said, adding that his "expectation and hope is that this will be closing down sooner than later."
The latest conflict between Israel and Palestinian terror groups follows just weeks after the Biden administration renewed aid to the Palestinian government against the wishes of many in Congress who warned the taxpayer cash would be used to fund terrorism. The White House is also working to grant significant sanctions relief to Iran, the chief funder of these terror groups, even though Israelis oppose it.
As the conflict began to rage earlier this week, Biden balked at issuing a statement or public comment, as is normal in such situations, generating concerns his silence would prolong the conflict. His administration, meanwhile, continues to lay equal blame on both sides and repeat calls for calm. In a Wednesday call with Netanyahu, Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated that all parties must deescalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence.
Biden "should be condemning these terrorist attacks by Hamas, saying that Israel has the right to defend itself, and avoiding the kind of calls for 'calm on all sides' that can suggest moral equivalency between Hamas's attacks and Israel's responses," Elliott Abrams, a veteran U.S. official who most recently served as the Trump administration's Iran envoy, told the Washington Free Beacon prior to Biden's Wednesday press conference.
Other former senior Trump administration officials and Republicans in Congress told the Free Beacon that Biden's costly policy missteps in the region are fueling the violence and effacing a historic peace effort that brought Israel closer to its Arab foes than ever before. For four years under the Trump administration, the Palestinians abstained from terror attacks, even as the United States applied some of the toughest policies in history toward them.
Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo told the Free Beacon that his administration's policies, which were much criticized by Democrats and the international community, isolated Hamas and other Iranian-backed terror groups in the region. By cutting off all aid to the Palestinians and publicly siding with Israel in its conflict, the former administration undermined the same terror groups that are currently attacking Israel, Pompeo said.
"Hamas knew that we would always support Israel's right to defend itself and that no amount of globalist silly leftist pressure would cause us to join in the Palestinian Authority's support of terror. And we certainly weren't going to have U.S. taxpayers underwrite PA leaders who refused to oppose the use of violence," Pompeo said. "Now, attacks may be rewarded by the United States blaming Israel. In short, deterrence and supporting your allies work to keep peace."
Israel reportedly killed 16 Hamas officials in a Wednesday airstrike on the Gaza Strip. At least six Israelis have been killed as hundreds of rockets strike the country.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) told the Free Beacon that Biden's team inherited a Middle East that was more stable than it had been in decades.
"The world had moved on from Palestinian rejectionism, the Iranian regime was on the brink of financial collapse, and the Houthis [in Yemen] were designated terrorists," Cruz said. Yet, the Biden administration "rushed to reverse and undo those gains, and unfortunately they have broadly succeeded. The wave of violent Iran-backed terrorism that our Israeli allies are facing is a direct result of these anti-Israel, pro-Iran policies. It is disgraceful that this administration continues to equivocate morally and diplomatically between our Israeli allies and terrorists, and singles Israel out for blame."
The latest spate of violence comes against the backdrop of the Biden administration's efforts to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. The sides are inching closer to a deal that could provide the region's top terrorism funder with billions of dollars. While proponents of the new deal claim this money will not be spent on terrorism, Iran's actions over the past several years show otherwise. Much of that money granted under the original accord was spent arming Hamas, Hezbollah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), among others.
Just days before the violence broke out, a PIJ official disclosed that his organization is primarily funded and armed by Iran.
"The mujahideen [terrorists] in Gaza and in Lebanon use Iranian weapons to strike the Zionists. We buy our weapons with Iranian money. An important part of our activity is under the supervision of Iranian experts," PIJ leader Ramez Al-Halabi was quoted as saying on May 7 during an interview on Iraqi TV.
Victoria Coates, a former senior official on the Trump administration's White House National Security Council, told the Free Beacon that Biden's rush to restart Palestinian aid and march back into the nuclear deal is empowering Israel's enemies
"In just 100 days, the Biden administration has empowered Tehran and by extension emboldened their proxy Hamas while putting Israel back in a position of moral equivalence with the Palestinian Authority—and this is the predictable, if lamentable, result."
Coates said the former administration's unambiguous support for Israel "sent a crystal-clear message to the region of where we stood," a message that Iran and its regional terror groups understood.