WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden on Thursday welcomed a ceasefire announced by Israel and Hamas as a “genuine opportunity” for peace after 11 days of bombing and rocket strikes.
“I believe we have a genuine opportunity to make progress and I´m committed to working toward it,” Biden said at the White House, highlighting Egypt´s role in brokering the truce.
He said he had spoken Thursday with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Biden, who has come under criticism from many within his own Democratic party for not pushing US ally Israel more publicly to call a ceasefire, touted his administration´s “quiet, relentless diplomacy.”
Echoing a line taken by the White House throughout the 11-day crisis, Biden indicated that the US goal, involving “incredible efforts,” was above all to limit the duration of the bloodshed.
The aim was to avoid the sort of prolonged crisis “we´ve seen in previous years,” he said.
Biden referred to the casualties on both sides, and said “Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely and enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity and democracy.”
He also pledged US humanitarian aid, while emphasizing that this would be channeled through the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, not Hamas so that the organization could not “simply restock its military arsenal.”
Biden put particular weight on a pledge to back “Israel´s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks from Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups.”
In a rejection of some Democratic members of Congress who are pushing to stop an imminent US arms sale to Israel, Biden said he had assured Netanyahu of his “full support” in replenishing the Iron Dome anti-missile system used to shoot down Hamas´ projectiles.
Biden also had notable words of thanks for Sisi, whose authoritarian rule has complicated the long close US-Egyptian relationship.
“I extend my sincere gratitude to President al-Sisi and the senior Egyptian officials who have played such a critical role in this diplomacy,” Biden said.