President Biden promised to help Palestinians who lost their homes during 11 days of Israeli strikes on Gaza as he offered prayers Friday for a ceasefire to hold.
During a press conference to mark the visit of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, he insisted he remained committed to Israeli security.
But he struck a careful balance between both sides as he announced plans to help Palestinians in Gaza rebuild their lives so long as Hamas militants, who rained rockets on Israel, were not able to rebuild their armaments.
‘I am prepared to put together, and am going to attempt to put together, a major package with other nations who share our view to rebuild the homes and – without providing Hamas the ability to rebuild their weapons systems – rebuild Gaza,’ he said.
‘They need help and I’m committed to get that done.’
President Joe Biden said there had been no shift in his position on Israel despite this week urging the Israeli military to de-escalate strikes on Gaza as he came under pressure from members of his own party to do more to protect Palestinian human rights
South Korean President Moon Jae-in is only the second world leader to visit the White House since Biden took power because of COVID-19 precautions
He spoke less than a day after Hamas and Israel agreed a truce, ending days of rocket and missile exchanges that killed more than 200 people.
‘I’m praying this ceasefire will hold,’ he said in the East Room of the White House.
He was joined by Moon, who is only the second world leader to visit the Biden White House.
They said they would work together to tackle the threat posed by North Korea nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
‘We both are deeply concerned about the situation,’ Biden said at the start of a joint news conference.
He announced the appointment of a State Department official, Sung Kim, as special envoy for North Korea.
‘Our goal is and remains complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,’ he said.
But the days of fighting between Hamas militants and Israel, as well as street battles in Israeli towns, dominated the questions as journalists tried probe whether Biden was weakening his support for Israel under pressure from the left of his party.
An Israeli soldier sits on top of a tank at a staging ground near the border with Gaza Strip, southern Israel, Friday, May 21, 2021. A cease-fire took effect early Friday after 11 days of heavy fighting between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers that was ignited by protests and clashes in Jerusalem.
Thousands of people attended funerals of Palestinians who died during the past few days of the conflict between Hamas and Israel
These satellite images show the damage caused during the attacks in Gaza City following the Israeli attacks
Members of the Ezz-Al Din Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Palestinian Hamas movement walk past rubble from a destroyed building as a ceasefire came into effect on May 21, 2021 in Gaza City, Gaza.
‘There is no shift in my commitment, commitment to the security of Israel,’ he said before underscoring the need for a two-state solution.
‘It is the only answer.’
Biden has faced mounting calls from within his own party to do more to protect Palestinians.
As the conflict wore on, his public support for Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas rockets gave way to urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to de-escalate strikes and move toward a ceasefire.
On Friday he tried to balance those positions as he pushed back against the idea that the Democratic Party was breaking from its longstanding support for Israel.
‘My party still supports Israel,’ he said.
‘Let’s get something straight here: Until the region says, unequivocally, they acknowledge the right of Israel to exist as an independent Jewish state there will be no peace.’
He declined to say what he told Netanyahu in their frequent phone conversations, other than that he took the Israeli prime minister at his word.
Moon started his visit by meeting Vice President Kamala Harris where he delivered a subtle jab at Donald Trump. Biden’s predecessor had dismissed Moon as weak and threatened to withdraw U.S. troops from South Korea.
‘My congratulations on how the Biden-Harris administration is building back better with the world’s most successful vaccine deployment and fastest economic recovery, and blazing a trail for inclusiveness and unity by restoring the soul of America,’ he said.