Biden urges Congress to provide new funds for Israel and Ukraine

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Joe Biden urged Congress on Thursday to approve a security package for Israel and Ukraine worth tens of billions of dollars, saying America needed to overcome its domestic divisions to protect two vital allies and preserve US leadership around the world.

Biden did not specify how much money he was seeking but people familiar with the matter said the request was likely to involve $60bn for Ukraine and $14bn for Israel as well as funding for border security and Indo Pacific security. In all, the package is expected to exceed $100bn.

In a rare primetime televised address from the Oval Office, the US president said Hamas, the militant group that attacked Israel this month, and Russia, which launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, shared similar objectives that must be thwarted.

“Hamas and [Vladimir] Putin represent different threats, but they share this in common: they both want to completely annihilate a neighbouring democracy,” he said from the White House, referring to Russia’s president.

“History has taught us that when terrorists don’t pay a price for their terror, when dictatorships don’t pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos and death and more destruction,” he said. “We cannot and will not let terrorists like Hamas and tyrants like Putin win — I refuse to let that happen.”

Biden spoke a day after making a one-day visit to Israel for talks with Benjamin Netanyahu’s government over its response to the October 7 attacks, as it prepares for a possible ground offensive that is expected to cause additional civilian casualties and risks further inflaming the region.

Biden said he had “cautioned the government of Israel not to be blinded by rage” in its response and stressed he was still committed to a “two-state solution” for an eventual peace with the Palestinians. But he added that he was making an “unprecedented commitment to Israel’s security that will sharpen Israel’s qualitative military edge”, including boosting its Iron Dome air defence system.

Biden is pairing the Israel funding with additional money for Kyiv as it tries to push back Russian troops who invaded Ukraine more than 18 months ago. US funding for Ukraine is at risking of lapsing in the coming months, making a replenishment an urgent priority for the Biden administration.

His message risks being stymied by a dramatic leadership vacuum on Capitol Hill, where Republicans failed on Thursday to find a replacement for the critical role of Speaker of the House of Representatives. The party, which controls the lower chamber, voted to oust Kevin McCarthy from the job earlier this month.

“We can’t let petty partisan angry politics get in the way of our responsibility as a great nation,” Biden warned.

His speech will find a friendlier audience in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats but has a clear bipartisan majority in favour of aiding both Israel and Ukraine.

Yet the president, who did not specify how much funding he was seeking, tried to make the strongest possible case for lawmakers and the US public to support Israel and Ukraine.

“It’s a smart investment that’s going to pay dividends for American security for generations, help us keep American troops out of harm’s way, help us build a world that is safer, more peaceful and more prosperous for our children and grandchildren.”

As well as vowing to defeat Russia and Hamas, Biden also linked them to Iran, which he again warned against entering the conflict in the Middle East.

“Iran is supporting Russia in Ukraine and supporting Hamas and other terrorist groups in the region, and we will continue to hold them accountable.”

He added: “American leadership is what holds the world together, American alliances are what keeps America safe, American values are what make us a partner nations want to work with. But all of that is at risk if we walk away from Ukraine, if we turn our backs on Israel. It’s just not worth it.”

Biden also warned against a rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia in the wake of the conflict in the Middle East. After the speech, he called the family of Wadea Al-Fayoumi, a 6-year-old boy who was killed in Illinois in an alleged hate crime last weekend. “We reject all forms of hate, whether against Muslims or Jews or anyone,” Biden said.

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