President Biden on Thursday used a primetime Oval Office address to argue U.S. support for Israel and Ukraine in their respective wars is vital to American national security, drawing parallels between the two conflicts ahead of a request for congressional aid.
“Hamas and Putin represent different threats, but they share this in common: They both want to annihilate a neighboring democracy,” Biden said, while adding that countries like Iran back both the U.S.-designated terrorist group and the Kremlin.
“I know these conflicts can seem far away and it’s natural to ask, why does this matter to America?” he added.
The president sought to make the case that America is the “essential nation” that can simultaneously support its allies, deter adversaries and rally other nations behind the cause of global democracies.
“American leadership is what holds the world together. America’s alliances are what keep us safe,” Biden said. “American values are what make us a partner that other nations want to work with. To put all of that at risk if we walk away from Ukraine and turn our backs on Israel—it’s just not worth it.”
Biden further sought to impress on the public how allowing Ukraine or Israel to come under siege would represent a grave threat to democracies around the globe and would embolden America’s enemies.
“History has taught us that when terrorists don’t pay a price for their terror, when dictators don’t pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos and death, and more destruction,” Biden said. “They keep going, and the cost and the threats to America and the world keep rising.”
He also delivered a warning to Hamas over humanitarian aid leaders agreed to allow into Gaza after such aid was not allowed in over the last 10 days as food and water ran out, saying it was imperative that it reaches Palestinians in need.
“If Hamas does not divert or steal these shipments, we’re going to provide an opening for sustained delivery of lifesaving humanitarian assistance for the Palestinians,” the president said.
The president said he would send Congress a supplemental funding request on Friday that would include an “unprecedented commitment to Israel’s security.” The package, which will reportedly total $100 billion, will also include money for Ukraine, as well as allies in the Indo-Pacific and humanitarian aid.
Biden delivered just his second primetime address since taking office in the wake of terrorist attacks in Israel carried out by Hamas, a militant group that controls Gaza, that killed more than 1,400 Israelis and has left thousands of Palestinians dead or injured in subsequent strikes on Gaza.
Biden’s address came one day after a whirlwind trip to Israel, during which he met with Israeli government officials and survivors of the Hamas attacks and delivered remarks announcing humanitarian aid to Gaza while offering steadfast U.S. support for the Jewish state as it prepares an offensive.
The visit to Tel Aviv was the second time this year Biden has traveled to a war zone. The first came in February, when he made a covert trip to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky one year after Russia first launched its invasion in February 2022.
While there is bipartisan support in Congress for supporting both Israel and Ukraine, a small minority of House Republicans have grown increasingly opposed to providing additional aid to the Ukrainians, suggesting it is not in the interests of the United States.
That opposition would make it difficult for Biden and his team to push through an aid package that provides funding for both allies over the next year.
Further complicating matters, the House has been without a Speaker for more than two weeks since the ouster of Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). Without a Speaker in place, the House would be unable to pass legislation.
The White House previously sent a supplemental funding request in August that included a total of $24 billion in military, financial and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine. That same request also sought roughly $4 billion total in supplemental funding for border and migration efforts.
Biden is facing additional criticism from a small group of progressive Democrats who have called for the president to insist on a ceasefire that would halt the Israeli airstrikes on Gaza to protect Palestinian civilians.
Biden has held back on this move, with administration officials saying Israel is acting in its self-defense to degrade Hamas’s military infrastructure, and go after its leadership in the Strip.
Biden in his speech sought to address that criticism saying, “the United States remains committed to the Palestinians’ right to dignity and self determination. The actions of Hamas terrorists don’t take that right away.”
White House officials believe the conflicts abroad have allowed Biden to lean into foreign policy, an area where he is particularly comfortable given his decades in the Senate and eight years as vice president.
But it is also a politically challenging matter given divisions in the Democratic Party and the uncertainty engulfing Congress.
Polling has also shown a gradual decline over time in public support for Ukraine aid, and initial surveys have suggested not all Americans are pleased with Biden’s approach to the Israel-Hamas conflict.
A CBS News poll published hours before Biden spoke found 44 percent of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict, while 56 percent disapprove. The poll found 61 percent of independents disapproved of Biden’s approach.
The poll found 44 percent of Americans believe Biden has shown Israel the right amount of support, compared to 32 percent who said he had not shown enough support. Twenty-four percent said Biden had shown the Jewish state too much support.
Updated 9:06 p.m.