By Anita Powell
President Joe Biden on Saturday condemned the surprise Hamas-led attacks that killed hundreds of Israelis, saying the events were “unconscionable” and “heartbreaking,” with “no justification” — and reiterating Washington’s “rock solid” support for Israel.
“As this situation continues to develop, let there be no mistake,” he said, “The United States stands with the state of Israel.”
Biden said he had also spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who, like many Israelis and Jews around the world, was ending a week of religious observations for the holiday of Sukkot — to convey that message, and had also been in contact with the king of Jordan and top U.S. national security officials.
In a call Saturday evening with reporters, a senior Biden administration official said the White House had been engaging all day with top officials or leaders, including those from the Palestinian Authority, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Germany, the U.K. and Italy. The official was not identified, as is customary during these background calls.
Saturday’s attacks by the militant Palestinian group produced a rare moment of agreement among high-ranking American politicians on both sides of the U.S.’ deep political divide. Many also alluded to the global impacts of the violence.
“The unprovoked terror attack today and the murders of innocent Israeli citizens are a stark reminder of the brutality of Hamas and Iran-backed extremists,” Representative Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican who is campaigning to be the next speaker of the House of Representatives, said in a statement. “The indiscriminate killings of men, women and children are sickening.”
The White House official noted the unusual situation U.S. lawmakers find themselves in after the historic ouster of the previous House speaker, Kevin McCarthy — a move that leaves Congress effectively immobilized until a new speaker is chosen.
“Without a speaker of the House, that is a unique situation we’re going to have to work through,” the administration official said when asked about the ability of the current Congress to pass any Israel-related legislation.
The two top members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Michael McCaul and Democrat Gregory Meeks, spoke as one in a statement and pledged their support.
“We strongly and unequivocally condemn Hamas’ heinous attack on Israel today. We support Israel’s right to self-defense and are ready to ensure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself. We stand with Israel as it mourns the dead, cares for the wounded, and defends its homeland, citizens and visitors.”
From the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, urged the United States and “the civilized world” to stand in solidarity with Israel and pointed to outside influence.
“The terrorists responsible for this ongoing war against Israel were trained and equipped by Iran, the same terror state providing lethal drones to Russia to attack Ukraine,” he said in a statement. “There must be consequences for those who conduct or support such terror. Failure to support friends under attack — in Kyiv or Tel Aviv — will only embolden the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism and fellow authoritarians who watch closely for a weakening of American leadership and Western solidarity.”
His Democrat counterpart, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, agreed.
“The terrorist attacks by Hamas on the people of Israel are absolutely horrific,” Schumer said in a statement. “The United States stands with Israel in its unwavering right to defend itself. I stand ready to ensure Israel has the support to do so. My prayers are with the dead and those taken hostage, their families, and the hundreds injured.”
Speaking from the White House Saturday afternoon, Biden said he had made his support clear to Netanyahu.
“We stand ready to offer all appropriate means of support to the government and people of Israel,” said Biden. “Terrorism is never justified. Israel has a right to defend itself and its people. The United States warns against any other party hostile to Israel seeking advantage in this situation. My administration’s support for Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering.”
American adversaries watching, say experts
Analysts say these events are being keenly watched by U.S. adversaries like Russia and China. And, they said, Iran is very much involved.
“It’s very important to note that all these groups have one thing in common and that’s Iran,” said Joe Truzman, a research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Long War Journal.
When asked about that, the White House official told journalists “it’s too early to say whether the state of Iran was directly involved, or planning, or supporting.”
But, the official added: “That said, there’s no doubt that Hamas is funded, equipped, armed by Iran and others. And so that’s why we have taken action throughout this administration to hold Iran accountable, to impose sanctions on Iran for support to Hamas and other terrorist organizations. That is going to continue, believe me.”
“It’s absolutely in Russia’s interest to create chaos in the Middle East,” said Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the think tank. “It’s a big distraction from the U.S. effort to support Ukraine. Certainly the Chinese are going to be enjoying this, too.”
On whether this violence complicates a Biden administration initiative to get Israel and Saudi Arabia to normalize relations, Dubowitz said while that may be Tehran’s intent, that process may not be disrupted so easily.
“I don’t think the Iranian strategy will work here to derail normalization,” he said. “I think normalization from a Saudi perspective is so strategic to [Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman] economically, politically, militarily, from a national security perspective, that he needs normalization and will continue to move forward.”
Reactions from around world
The global impacts of this event were also made clear by swift reactions from other world leaders.
“Deeply shocked by the news of terrorist attacks in Israel,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the innocent victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with Israel at this difficult hour.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that these attacks, for his people, are something they “have a special feeling about” as they evoke Russia’s attacks against Ukraine for 19 months.
“Our position is crystal clear: Anyone who causes terror and death anywhere on the planet must be held accountable,” Zelenskyy said. “Today’s terrorist attack on Israel was well-planned, and the entire world knows which sponsors of terrorism could have endorsed and enabled its organization. Israel has the full right to defend itself against terror. As any other state. And it’s critical that the whole world responds to terror in a unified and principled manner.”