Joe Biden hails cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas


President Biden on Thursday hailed the reported cease-fire between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza after more than a week of deadly clashes in the region.

Mr. Biden said he had just spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and that Mr. Netanyahu agreed to a “mutual, unconditional cease-fire” to begin in less than two hours.

The president said Egypt has informed the administration that Hamas also agreed to the cease-fire.

Mr. Biden said he commended Mr. Netanyahu for helping bring the hostilities to a close.

“I also emphasized what I’ve said throughout this conflict: The United States fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks from Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups that have taken the lives of innocent civilians in Israel,” he said from the White House.

Mr. Biden said he pledged “full support” from the U.S. for Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.

“I believe the Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely and to enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and democracy,” the president said. “My administration will continue our quiet, relentless diplomacy toward that end.”

He said he sees a “genuine opportunity” to make progress.

The president spoke earlier Thursday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi as countries in the region tried to prod the two sides toward peace.

Mr. Biden thanked the Egyptian president and other officials in the country for playing a critical role in brokering the deal.

Mr. Netanyahu’s office had indicated that Israel would pull back on its campaign in Gaza, though officials indicated they reserved the right to restart the campaign if Hamas continued rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.

The fighting has claimed the lives of at least 230 Palestinians, according to Gaza officials, and at least 12 people in Israel.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Netanyahu have spoken at least six times in the past week or so.

In their call Wednesday, the president said he expected to see a significant de-escalation that day on the path to a cease-fire, according to the White House.

Back at home, Mr. Biden has been facing pressure on the issue from both ends of the political spectrum.

Left-wing Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York pushed a resolution to block a $735 million weapons sale to Israel, saying the U.S. shouldn’t be actively arming Israel while simultaneously supporting a cease-fire.

“For decades, the U.S. has sold billions of dollars in weaponry to Israel without ever requiring them to respect basic Palestinian rights,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said. “In so doing, we have directly contributed to the death, displacement and disenfranchisement of millions.”

Mr. Biden’s Thursday evening speech means such a proposal almost certainly will go nowhere.

Congressional Republicans reaffirmed their support for Israel and said there should be no “both sides” equivalence between Israel and Hamas.

GOP senators, led by Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, pushed their own resolution this week condemning Hamas’ attacks and reaffirming the American support for Israel.

Israel is under attack, yet the Democrats refuse to stand with our ally and are responsible for the anti-Israel rhetoric permeating the halls of Congress,” Mr. Scott said. 

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