Biden speech aims to sell on US on funding Ukraine, Israel wars


Washington (Reuters) – President Joe Biden will discuss the U.S. response to the Israeli-Gaza conflict and the war in Ukraine in a primetime address, less than 24 hours after returning from Tel Aviv to offer Israelis support and aid for Palestinians in a trip upended by a hospital blast in Gaza.

His televised remarks, scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on Thursday (midnight GMT on Friday), come as Congress remains stalled without a leader in the U.S. House of Representatives needed to pass legislation, including Biden’s expected funding requests for the two wars.

Biden will offer a message of solidarity to the people of Ukraine and Israel, but moreover address the nation, including U.S. lawmakers, about the conflicts’ impact, U.S. deputy national security adviser Jon Finer said in television interviews.

“This will also be very much a message to the American people: how those conflicts connect to our lives back here, how support from the American people and the Congress, frankly, is essential,” Finer told MSNBC.

Meanwhile, the USS Mount Whitney, a sophisticated command, control, communication, and intelligence ship, is heading to the eastern Mediterranean to join a host of U.S. warships already there, the U.S. Navy said.

A U.S. official and a congressional aide told Reuters that the Department of Defense told members of Congress at a briefing on Wednesday that it intends to send its two Iron Dome missile defense systems back to Israel as part of a leaseback deal, having experimented with the systems for several years. The transfer could come within days, the aide said.

Biden returned overnight from his brief Israel trip aimed at offering U.S. support following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israeli villages and military bases. Biden’s planned meetings in Jordan with the Egyptian and Palestinian leaders were canceled after a deadly explosion at a hospital in Gaza.

In Tel Aviv, the president pledged $100 million in new funding for humanitarian aid in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, and said he would ask Congress for unprecedented aid to boost Israel’s fight with Hamas.

The White House has said Biden would unveil his additional funding request this week. The administration is considering $60 billion for Ukraine and $10 billion for Israel, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Any funding measure must pass both the Senate, where additional aid has bipartisan support, and the House, which has not had a leader for 17 days as Republican lawmakers who control the chamber remain split over whether to back conservative Jim Jordan, an ally of former President Donald Trump.

Republicans in the House, which is expected to hold another speaker vote later on Thursday, are also divided over whether to back more aid, with some far-right conservatives particularly opposed to money for Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Finer said humanitarian aid was expected to enter Gaza within the next day or so and echoed Biden’s warning that it is not to be misappropriated for use by Hamas.

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