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US leadership ‘holds the world together,’ Biden says in bid for Ukraine, Israel funds

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© U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at a dinner hosted by the Human Rights Campaign at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, U.S., October 14, 2023. REUTERS/Ken Cedeno/File Photo

By Steve Holland, Jarrett Renshaw and Trevor Hunnicutt

WASHINGTON () – President Joe Biden launched an urgent mission on Thursday to get Americans behind billions more dollars in spending for Israel and Ukraine, using a rare Oval Office speech to say U.S. backing is critical for the two major allies immersed in wars.

“American leadership is what holds the world together. American alliances are what keep us, America, safe,” said Biden.

Biden sought to link Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip who attacked Israel to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose forces invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

“Hamas and Putin represent different threats, but they share this in common: They both want to annihilate a neighboring democracy,” he said.

Biden spoke about 20 hours after returning from a whirlwind trip to Israel to show U.S. solidarity after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants who launched attacks from Gaza and killed 1,400 people in southern Israel.

Biden’s message carried some urgency. Israel is poised to launch a ground offensive to root out Palestinian Hamas militants from Gaza and tensions are at a fever pitch after a deadly blast at a Gaza hospital.

Biden said Israel was not responsible for the blast, as Hamas officials had asserted, but said: “We can’t ignore the humanity of innocent Palestinians who only want to live in peace and have opportunity.”

Biden voiced concern that some Americans are asking, “Why does it matter to America” that the United States support the wars?

“I know these conflicts can seem far away,” he said.

But he said America’s adversaries are watching how both conflicts play out and could stir up trouble elsewhere in the world depending on the outcome.

The U.S. president spoke against a backdrop of political chaos in Washington, as Republicans who control the House of Representatives have struggled to settle on who will lead them as speaker after ousting Kevin McCarthy from that job.

Directing his remarks squarely at squabbling Republicans, Biden said: “You can’t let petty, partisan, angry politics get in the way of our responsibilities as a great nation.”

Biden requested emergency spending that U.S. officials say will total roughly $100 billion over the next year for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan and security along the porous U.S. border with Mexico.

It may include $60 billion for Ukraine and $10 billion for Israel, sources said beforehand, as well as billions for Asia and U.S. border security.

By lumping the priorities together in one package, Biden is testing whether Republican lawmakers can be persuaded to set aside their opposition and go along with spending on Ukraine, whose 20-month-old war with Russia has absorbed billions of dollars already in U.S. weapons with no end in sight.

Any funding measure must pass both the Democratic-led U.S. Senate, where additional aid has bipartisan support, and the Republican-led House, which has not had a speaker for 17 days.

Conservative Jim Jordan, an ally of former President Donald Trump, vowed to continue his bid for House speaker after failing to win majority support among Republicans.

House Republican lawmakers in recent weeks nearly brought government to a halt over chronic budget deficits and $31.4 trillion in debt, threatening to slash government spending across the board.

About four in 10 respondents in a /Ipsos poll conducted last week said the U.S. should support Israel’s position in the conflict when given a range of options. Nearly half said Americans should remain neutral or not be involved.

In a separate /Ipsos poll earlier this month, roughly the same proportion agreed with a statement that Washington “should provide weapons to Ukraine.”

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