In a rare prime-time address, President Joe Biden sought to compare the war between Israel and Hamas to the ongoing effort by Ukraine to repel Russia’s invasion as he urged Congress — and the American people — to support both countries.

What You Need To Know

  • President Joe Biden on Thursday night delivered a major foreign policy address on Israel and Ukraine as war rages in both countries 
  • Biden compared the war between Israel and Hamas to the ongoing effort by Ukraine to repel Russia’s invasion as he urged Congress — and the American people — to support both countries

  • The speech came about 24 hours after Biden returned from his trip to Tel Aviv to show support for Israel, and months after Biden visited Kyiv to demonstrate solidarity with Ukraine and its people

  • It also comes ahead of Biden’s formal request to Congress to provide aid to Israel and Ukraine, which is also reportedly expected to include funding for Indo-Pacific nations, including Taiwan, and funding for enhanced security at the U.S.-Mexico border

“Hamas and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin represent different threats, but they share this in common: they both want to completely annihilate a neighboring democracy, completely annihilate it,” the president said.

“I know these conflicts can seem far away, and it’s natural to ask ‘why does this matter to America?” Biden said, as if speaking to the slipping support for backing aid to Ukraine. “Let me share with you why making sure Israel and Ukraine succeed is vital for America's national security.”

“History has taught us that 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,” he continued. “They keep going, and the cost and the threats to America and the world keep rising.”

“We know that our allies—and maybe most importantly, our adversaries and competitors—are watching our response in Ukraine,” the president said. “If we walk away and let Putin erase Ukraine’s independence, would-be aggressors around the world would be emboldened to try the same.”

The speech came about 24 hours after Biden returned from his trip to Tel Aviv to show support for Israel, and months after Biden visited Kyiv to demonstrate solidarity with Ukraine and its people.

Biden condemned the attack from Hamas that killed more than 1,400 Israelis, as well as at least 32 American citizens

"The terrorist group Hamas unleashed pure, unadulterated evil in the world, but sadly, the Jewish people know perhaps better than anyone that there's no limit to the depravity of people when they want to inflict pain on others," he said.

But he also urged Israelis not to be "blinded by rage," comparing the Oct. 7 surprise attack to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States and cautioning them not to make the same "mistakes" that Americans did in response.

"When I was in Israel yesterday, I said that when America experienced the hell of 9/11, we felt enraged as well," the president said. "While we sought and got justice, we made mistakes. I cautioned the government of Israel not to be blinded by rage."

"As I said in Israel, as hard as it is, we cannot give up on peace," Biden said. "We cannot give up on a two-state solution. Israelis and Palestinians deserve to live in safety, dignity, and peace."

The speech also comes ahead of Biden’s formal request to Congress to provide aid to Israel and Ukraine, which is also reportedly expected to include funding for Indo-Pacific nations, including Taiwan, and funding for enhanced security at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“American leadership is what holds the world together. America’s alliances are what keep us safe. American values are what make us a partner that other nations want to work with,” Biden said. “To put all of that at risk if we walk away from Ukraine and turn our backs on Israel — it’s just not worth it.”

“That’s why tomorrow I’m going to send to Congress an urgent budget request to fund America’s national security needs – needs to support our critical partners, including Israel and Ukraine,” he added. “It’s a smart investment that’s gonna pay dividends for American security for generations.”

The package is expected to total north of $100 billion and include $14 billion for Israel, $10 billion for humanitarian efforts, $14 billion for the border and fighting fentanyl trafficking, and $60 billion for Ukraine, largely to replenish U.S. weapon stockpiles, according to The Associated Press.

Public poling on the topic of U.S. assistance to Ukraine is mixed. A survey by Quinnipiac University released this week shows about 65% percent of voters believe supporting Ukraine is in the interest of the U.S. A poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research earlier this year found 37% of Americans favored sending government funds directly to Ukraine. 

Some Republicans have expressed serious concern about tying Ukraine and Israel aid together. 

“I think they’re trying to take something where there’s broad public support — Israel — and trying to get Ukraine with it and do it all at one time, and not have a separate package where they have to talk about the merits of Ukraine,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. told Punchbowl News. 

Matters appeared to be complicated when Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was ousted from the House speaker position just over two weeks ago, leaving questions about whether a new GOP Speaker would even be willing to bring a request for more aid to Ukraine to the House floor. 

This summer, the White House asked Congress to approve about $24 billion in aid to Ukraine for the first quarter of fiscal year 2024, which started this month. That became a sticking point in efforts to avert a government shutdown on Oct. 1 and was left out of the short-term funding measure Congress approved to keep the government funded through Nov. 17 – which ultimately triggered McCarthy’s historic ousting. 

All of this was before Hamas — the terrorist group that controls Gaza — attacked Israel on Oct. 7. 

Complicating matters even further: With the House essentially paralyzed still without a speaker, any request Biden sends over could be stalled in the lower chamber until it selects a new leader. 

Despite that, Senate leaders are promising to move the request quickly in their chamber. On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that the president “will send Congress a supplemental request that will provide Israel the resources it needs to defend itself. It will include robust humanitarian aid for innocent civilians in Gaza who have nothing to do with Hamas. We will move this package ASAP.” 

For his part, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-K.Y., signaled he would be open to linking the Israel and Ukraine funding, arguing “This is all interconnected.” 

“The most recent attack in Israel is part of a broader concern developed during the Ukraine war, basically the democracies of the world are all on the same side,” McConnell told reporters in the Capitol this week. 

Biden, in his speech, invoked and oft-used refrain of his, telling Americans that "we're facing an inflection point in history, one of those moments where the decisions we make today are going to determine the future for decades to come."

But the president made the case that not only was it an "inflection point" on the world stage, but one at home as well.

"Here at home, we have to be honest with ourselves," he said. "In recent years, too much hate is given too much oxygen, fueling racism, a rise of antisemitism and islamophobia right here in America."

"We must, without equivocation, denounce antisemitism," Biden added. "We must also, without equivocation, denounce Islamophobia. To all of you hurting, those of you hurting, I want you to know: I see you. You belong. And I want to say this to you: You're all America. You're all America."

"Here in America, let us not forget who we are," the president said. "We reject all forms of hate, whether it’s against Muslims, Jews, or anyone. That’s what great nations do – and we are a great nation."

Biden concluded by invoking the words of a "friend," the secretary of state Madeleine Albright, who often referred to America as the "indespensible nation."

"Tonight there are innocent people all over the world who hope because of us, who believe in a better life because of us, who are desperate not to be forgotten by us," Biden said. "They're waiting for us." 

"Time is of the essence," he continued. "We cannot let petty, partisan, angry politics get in the way of our responsibilities as a nation. We cannot — and will not — let terrorists like Hamas and tyrants like Putin win. I refuse to let that happen."