Biden and Irish Leader Use St. Patrick’s Day Visit to Address Gaza

Biden and Irish Leader Use St. Patrick’s Day Visit to Address Gaza

President Biden used the normally festive St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the White House on Sunday to acknowledge growing international concern, including among the Irish, about the humanitarian situation of Palestinians in light of Israeli military action in Gaza.

“The Taoiseach and I agree on the urgent need to increase humanitarian assistance in Gaza and conclude the ceasefire agreement,” Mr. Biden responded, along with Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, or Taoiseach, an outspoken critic of Israel’s war on the Hamas on the October 7 terrorist attack. As hundreds of Irish-American leaders and government officials applauded, Mr Biden said a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians was “the only path to lasting peace and security”.

The White House celebration, with lots of green dye, shamrocks and Guinness, is usually an opportunity for Mr. Biden to move away from talk of foreign policy and threats to American democracy and celebrate his Irish-American heritage. But during his trip to the United States, Mr Varadkar made clear he would raise his concerns about the war in the Middle East with the American president.

In a sense, the prime minister was speaking to a home audience in Ireland, which, given its own history of resistance to British rule, is one of the most supportive European countries of the Palestinians. Ireland was the first European Union country to call for a Palestinian state and the last country to allow an Israeli residential embassy to open.

“Mr. Mr. President, as you know, the Irish people are deeply troubled by the catastrophe unfolding before our eyes in Gaza, and when I travel around the world, politicians often ask me why the Irish people have so much compassion for the Palestinian people,” Mr Varadkar said. “The answer is simple: we see our history in their eyes.”

While Mr Varadkar said he supported the government’s efforts to reach an agreement on a temporary ceasefire in return for the release of hostages, he also directly criticized Israel’s bombing tactics. While Mr. Biden has recently taken a harsher tone toward Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House has said there are no plans to use military aid to Israel.

“The people of Gaza urgently need food, medicine and shelter, and above all they need an end to the bombs,” Mr Varadkar said. “This has to stop on both sides, bring the hostages home and allow humanitarian aid.”

The comments come after Mr Varadkar said Israel had been “blinded with rage” since Hamas killed 1,200 people and seized more than 200 others on October 7. He has also warned that entering Rafah, a city in southern Gaza that is currently home to 1.5 million displaced Palestinians, would be a violation of international law. The war against Hamas has already resulted in the deaths of more than 30,000 people in Gaza, including many women and children, according to local health authorities.

The White House has also said it does not support an Israeli military operation in Rafah without comprehensive plans to evacuate displaced Palestinians from the area. Neighboring Egypt has said it will not accept any of the Palestinians.

While raising concerns about the war in the Middle East and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the two leaders took time Sunday to celebrate the history between their two nations.

Mr Biden, never afraid to reflect on his heritage, told the crowd gathered in the East Room how much he appreciated visiting his Irish ancestral home in Ballina last year. People in the crowd, many dressed in green and drinking pints of stout with the shape of the White House embossed on its white foam, listened intently and often cheered at the many references to Ireland.

“The Irish are the only people who are nostalgic for the future,” Mr. Biden said, sparking laughter from the crowd. “We are always looking for the next horizon. This is also a very American trait. Just further proof that the bond between Ireland and the United States runs deep.

Both leaders paid tribute to the first Irish Catholic President of the United States, John F. Kennedy. Mr. Varadkar quoted the former president, and Mr. Biden singled out in the crowd Joseph P. Kennedy III, the former president’s great-nephew and U.S. special envoy to Northern Ireland, who drew the most applause during the event.

Mr Varadkar also appealed directly to Mr Biden’s heart when he quoted another “brave Irish American”.

“It’s about the promises we make to our children, who deserve a chance to succeed,” Mr Varadkar said. “The promises we make to each other. The sacred promise to work for a better future for all. These are the words of Beau Biden.”

As the crowd applauded at the mention of Mr. Biden’s eldest son, who died of brain cancer in 2015, Mr. Biden bowed his head as a tear rolled down his cheek.

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2024-03-18 03:42:46