Biden Condemns Hamas Attack on Israel as ‘Evil’


As he took the podium and stared into the camera on Tuesday, President Biden held nothing back. He bristled with righteous indignation as he denounced the bloody Hamas attack in unforgiving terms and vowed to stand by Israel without equivocation.

Over the course of 10 minutes, Mr. Biden called the strike on Israel “pure, unadulterated evil,” “sheer evil” and “indiscriminate evil.” Again and again, the outrage spilled out: “Atrocities.” “Sickening.” “Abhorrent.” “Brutality.” “Violation of every code of human morality.”

He recounted one instance of rampaging violence after another, a roster of horrors that has shocked much of the world not to mention his White House. Even for a president who often wears his emotions on his sleeve, it was a striking moment, possibly the most personal anger that he has displayed in public since taking office nearly three years ago. It was raw and it was memorable.

It was also an effort to leave no daylight between him and Israel during its greatest crisis in half a century, no room for his political opponents at home or America and Israel’s enemies abroad to exploit. Unlike other presidents during past eruptions of violence in the Middle East, he made no effort to express understanding of different sides, no move to urge restraint or seek diplomatic offramps. Instead, he promised that more military hardware was on its way.

“In this moment, we must be crystal clear: We stand with Israel. We stand with Israel,” Mr. Biden said in the State Dining Room, shortly getting off a call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “And we will make sure Israel has what it needs to take care of its citizens, defend itself, and respond to this attack.”

The attack has been all the more personal for Mr. Biden and his team given that at least 14 Americans were among those killed and 20 or more others remain missing and possibly held hostage by Hamas. The White House has been reaching out to the families of those unaccounted for as American intelligence agencies try to locate them.

The president’s ire reflected a long history with Israel going back to the early 1970s when he was a senator and the many years since that he has positioned himself as a supporter of the Jewish state. And it mirrored emotions roiling much of the White House in recent days amid graphic reports of massacres of women and children.

John F. Kirby, a normally stoic retired rear admiral who speaks for the National Security Council, briefly choked up during a CNN interview on Monday. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken’s face appeared tight, his lips pursed, while standing next to Mr. Biden on Tuesday. Jake Sullivan, the president’s ever-disciplined national security adviser, grew impassioned during a briefing after Mr. Biden’s statement.

“You’ve heard his voice, and this has been a deeply emotional time for all of us,” Mr. Sullivan told reporters, his own face reddening and his voice thick with emotion. “All of us have developed close relationships with our Israeli counterparts.”

Speaking of the president, Mr. Sullivan said, “He can hear the pain in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s voice when he talks with him.” He added: “This is not about policy or strategy. This is personal for us.”

While they did not say it in front of cameras on Tuesday, Mr. Biden and his team have been furious as well at Republicans, who within hours of the attack in Israel on Saturday began trying to blame the president for it.

Republicans led by former President Donald J. Trump have argued that Iran, the longtime patron of Hamas, was emboldened by Mr. Biden’s recent deal with Tehran to secure the release of five American citizens in exchange for helping to unfreeze $6 billion in Iranian oil revenue.

Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, a Republican presidential candidate, said on Tuesday that “Joe Biden has blood on his hands.” Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, said that “Biden’s weakness and appeasement of Iran” had encouraged enemies of America and Israel.

What Republicans do not mention is that the release of the $6 billion was done under a waiver program instituted by Mr. Trump when he was in office and the money is currently in a bank in Qatar available only for food, medicine and other humanitarian purposes as intended by the Trump policy. White House officials note that not a single dollar of the $6 billion has actually been spent so far.

By the time Mr. Biden arrived in the State Dining Room on Tuesday, though, it may not have been much of a surprise that Mr. Biden would be so worked up since he and Vice President Kamala Harris had just gotten off the line with Mr. Netanyahu.

The Israeli prime minister opened the call by thanking Mr. Biden for Mr. Kirby’s show of emotion the day before. He told the president that it was “an attack whose savagery we have not seen since the Holocaust” and then proceeded to give one chilling example after another.

“We’ve had hundreds massacred, families wiped out in their beds in their homes, women brutally raped and murdered, over 100 kidnapped, including children,” Mr. Netanyahu told Mr. Biden, according to a transcript released by the prime minister’s office. “They took dozens of children, bound them up, burned them and executed them. They beheaded soldiers. They mowed down these youngsters who came to a nature festival.”

Mr. Biden seemed to adopt some of the same language and stories when he arrived in the State Dining Room with Ms. Harris and Mr. Blinken shortly afterward.

“This was an act of sheer evil,” Mr. Biden said. “More than 1,000 civilians slaughtered — not just killed, slaughtered — in Israel, among them at least 14 American citizens killed. Parents butchered, using their bodies trying to protect their children, stomach-turning reports of babies being killed, entire families slain, young people massacred while attending a music festival to celebrate peace.”

The president made no effort to urge restraint from Israel as it responds. “Like every nation in the world, Israel has the right to respond, indeed has a duty to respond to these vicious attacks,” he said.

And he rejected suggestions that the attack was understandable, if not justified, given what critics consider to be Israel’s repression of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

“There’s no justification for terrorism,” he said flatly. “There’s no excuse. Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and self-determination. Its stated purpose is the annihilation of the state of Israel and the murder of Jewish people. They use Palestinian civilians as human shields. Hamas offers nothing but terror and bloodshed, with no regard for who pays the price.”

Michael D. Shear contributed reporting.





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