Biden declares Israel and Ukraine support is vital for US security, will ask Congress for billions

President Joe Biden speaks from the Oval Office of the White House Thursday in Washington, about the war in Israel and Ukraine. (Jonathan Ernst/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON — Declaring that U.S. leadership “holds the world together,” President Joe Biden told Americans on Thursday night the country must deepen its support of Ukraine and Israel in the middle of two vastly different, unpredictable and bloody wars.

Acknowledging that “these conflicts can seem far away,” Biden insisted in a rare Oval Office address that they remain “vital for America’s national security” as he prepared to ask Congress for billions of dollars in military assistance for both countries.

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“History has taught us 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 threat to America and the world keep rising.”

Biden’s speech reflected an expansive view of U.S. obligations overseas at a time when he faces political resistance at home to additional funding. He’s expected to ask for $105 billion on Friday, including $60 billion for Ukraine, much of which would replenish U.S. weapons stockpiles provided earlier.

There’s also $14 billion for Israel, $10 billion for unspecified humanitarian efforts, $14 billion for managing the U.S.-Mexico border and fighting fentanyl trafficking and $7 billion for the Indo-Pacific region, which includes Taiwan. The proposal was described by three people familiar with the details who insisted on anonymity before the official announcement.

“It’s a smart investment that’s going to pay dividends for American security for generations,” Biden said.

He hopes that combining all of these issues into one piece of legislation will create the necessary coalition for congressional approval. His speech came the day after his high-stakes trip to Israel, where he showed solidarity with the country after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas and pushed for more humanitarian assistance to Palestinians.

With Israel continuing to bombard the Gaza Strip and preparing a ground invasion, Biden placed an increased emphasis on the deadly toll that the conflict has had on civilians there, saying he’s “heartbroken by the tragic loss of Palestinian life.”

“Israel and Palestinians equally deserve to live in safety, dignity and peace,” Biden said. He also warned about a rising tide of antisemitism and Islamophobia in the U.S., noting the killing of Wadea Alfayoumi, a 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy.

“To all you hurting, I want you to know I see you. You belong,” Biden said. “And I want to say this to you. You’re all Americans.”

The White House said that after his speech, the president and first lady Jill Biden spoke over the phone with Wadea’s father and uncle to express their “deepest condolences” and share their prayers for the recovery of the boy’s mother, who was also stabbed.

Biden included in his remarks a warning to Iran’s leaders, who have supported Hamas in Gaza and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and said the U.S. “will continue to hold them accountable.”

As Biden seeks a second term in a campaign that will likely hinge on voters’ feeling about the economy, he was careful to emphasize that the spending will create jobs for U.S. workers, referencing the construction of missiles in Arizona and artillery shells in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas.

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