Over the weekend, President Biden conveyed “the need for Hamas to cease firing rockets into Israel and affirmed Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorist attacks,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during the press briefing Monday, noting that Hamas has fired “more than 3,000 rockets” into Israel amid the ongoing conflict.
“Our focus, our goal, every single action we take, every statement we make, is with the objective of reducing violence and bringing an end to conflict on the ground,” Psaki said.
“The prism we are making all our decisions through is how we can help to bring an end to violence and de-escalate the situation on the ground, and our calculation, at this point, is having those conversations behind the scenes, weighing in with our important strategic partnership we have with Israel and other countries in the region is the most constructive approach we can take,” Psaki said.
She added: “Our approach is through quiet, intensive diplomacy and that is where we feel we can be most effective.”
The White House also maintained that “the only way” to bring an end to the violence “is for there to be a two-state solution over time.”
“We share a view that a two-state solution is the only way to bring a lasting end to the violence,” Psaki said, while noting it is unclear, at this point, who in the administration would broker those negotiations.
The White House’s comments comes amid the worst violence between Israel and the Palestinians since the devastating 2014 war in Gaza.
Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, then launched a sustained rocket campaign targeting civilian areas in Israel; in response, Israel directed heavy artillery and airstrikes into Gaza, killing at least 180 people, including 55 children and 33 women. Over 1,200 people have been wounded. Eight people in Israel have been killed, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier.
Biden has condemned the violence and asserted Israel’s right to defend itself.
Meanwhile, a source confirmed to Fox News that the Biden administration has approved a $ 735 million weapons sale to Israel. The administration sent a formal notice of the sale to Congress on May 5 — nearly a week before Hamas began launching massive rocket attacks into Israel.
But progressive Democratic lawmakers are demanding that the Biden administration take a tougher stance against Israel.
“I think the administration needs to push harder on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to stop the violence, bring about a cease-fire, end these hostilities, and get back to a process of trying to resolve this long-standing conflict,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Biden has condemned the violence and asserted Israel’s right to defend itself, eliciting a swift backlash from some members of his own party who wanted the president to address what they viewed as human rights violations by Israeli forces in Gaza.
“This is happening with the support of the United States,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said on Saturday, tweeting a video of Israel bombing, and destroying, a building that housed media organizations including Al Jazeera and the Associated Press. (Israel contended the buildings contained Hamas cells).
“I don’t care how any spokesperson tries to spin this,” the New York firebrand continued. “The U.S. vetoed the U.N. call for ceasefire. If the Biden admin can’t stand up to an ally, who can it stand up to? How can they credibly claim to stand for human rights?”
Ocasio-Cortez is among the activist lawmakers pushing the U.S. to condition the billions in aid it provides to Israel.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., suggested on the House floor last week that the U.S. should consider conditioning aid to the country “if our budgets are a statement of our values, what do we value? Whose lives do we value?”
At the same time, more than two dozen House Democrats sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling on him to use diplomatic pressure to prevent the displacement of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, according to The Wall Street Journal. Ocasio-Cortez, one of the letter’s signatories, questioned U.S. aid to the Jewish state.
“The United States needs to take responsibility for the violence that we are supporting,” she told the Journal on Friday. “We can’t advance this idea that we’re some neutral party in this situation if our actions are consistently targeting Palestinians.”
And in a New York Times op-ed on Friday, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., similarly urged the White House to speak out against the Israeli government’s actions, arguing that U.S. involvement is vital to de-escalation.
“If the United States is going to be a credible voice on human rights on the global stage, we must uphold international standards of human rights consistently, even when it’s politically difficult,” Sanders wrote. “We must recognize that Palestinian rights matter. Palestinian lives matter.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.