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Biden seeks ‘vital’ war aid for Israel and Ukraine

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By Holly Honderich & Sarah Smith

BBC News, Washington

US President Joe Biden has said world history is at “an inflection point” as he made the case for billions of dollars in wartime aid for Ukraine and Israel.

In a speech at the White House, he said Hamas and Russia both wanted to “annihilate a neighbouring democracy”.

Mr Biden said he would send an urgent funding request – expected to be $105bn (£87bn) – to Congress on Friday.

But the House of Representatives has no leader and can’t approve any spending.

Mr Biden’s rare primetime address to the nation from the Oval Office on Thursday evening was just the second of his presidency.

It came a day after his whirlwind trip to Israel following the attacks by Hamas on 7 October.

Mr Biden said the emergency aid request would “pay dividends for American security for generations”.

In his 15-minute address, he also condemned any acts of hatred against Jews or Muslims in the US, and condemned the fatal stabbing of six-year-old Palestinian-American Wadea al-Fayoume in Chicago this week.

“We must without equivocation denounce anti-Semitism,” he said. “We must also without equivocation denounce Islamophobia.”

The White House has not yet officially released details about the expected aid package.

But a source familiar with the request told the BBC’s US partner CBS News it would include:

  • $60bn for Ukraine and replenishing US stockpiles
  • $14bn for Israel
  • $10bn for humanitarian efforts
  • $7bn for the Indo-Pacific region, including Taiwan
  • $14bn for US border security

Mr Biden also took great care to stress his sympathy for the suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza, as well as talking about meeting the families of Israeli and US victims of the Hamas attacks.

Democrats hope that by tying the different aid packages together they can win support for the Ukraine funding, which some Republicans oppose.

But the request will arrive at an effectively frozen Congress, as House Republicans have been unable to elect a Speaker after Kevin McCarthy was ousted in a right-wing revolt more than two weeks ago.

Mr Biden, who is a Democrat, did not explicitly address the political dysfunction, though he acknowledged “divisions at home”.

“We have to get past them,” he said. “We can’t let petty, partisan, angry politics get in the way of our responsibility as a great nation.

“We cannot and will not let terrorists like Hamas and tyrants like Putin win. I refuse to let that happen.”

But it is unclear if the spending package would pass Congress, even with a House Speaker.

The Republican leader of the Senate has indicated willingness to take up the measure, but there is opposition within the party.

Eight Republicans, led by Kansas Senator Roger Marshall, wrote in a letter: “These are two separate and unrelated conflicts and it would be wrong to leverage support of aid to Israel in an attempt to get additional aid for Ukraine across the finish line.”

Ohio Republican Senator JD Vance called Mr Biden’s linking of the two conflicts “disgusting”.

“He’s using dead children in Israel to sell his disastrous Ukraine policy,” he posted on X, formerly Twitter, after the speech.

More on Israel-Gaza war

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There was even a sign of dissent within the Biden administration on Thursday as a state department official resigned in protest at the US decision to keep sending weapons to Israel as it lays siege to Gaza.

Josh Paul, who headed the bureau that oversees arms transfers, told the BBC after quitting that he believed Israel’s actions violated US legal provisions meant to restrict weapons sales to human rights abusers.

“I think our mechanisms for determining violations are broken,” he said.

Additional reporting by Phil McCausland and Max Matza

SOURCE: BBC