The White House is not seeking to place conditions on U.S. military assistance to Israel, the White House clarified this week, despite President Biden suggesting days earlier that the U.S. would consider doing so.
Several Democrats have pushed conditions as the civilian death toll in Gaza from Israel’s war against Hamas climbed but national security adviser Jake Sullivan told lawmakers on Tuesday that the White House is not seeking any conditionality.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who was among a group of about a dozen senators who met privately with Sullivan on Tuesday, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Sullivan “made it clear that the White House is not asking for any conditionality in aid. So I want to leave that very clear.”
Last week, Biden told reporters that conditioning military aid to Israel was a “worthwhile thought” and suggested that had he intervened in negotiations by doing so, it would have been more difficult to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas.
Sullivan’s clarification is the second time this week that the White House has appeared to walk back Biden’s comment on possibly conditioning future Israel military aid.
On Monday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby was directly asked if Biden was considering conditioning aid and what the president meant by a “worthwhile thought.”
“What he also said, right after acknowledging that it was ‘a worthwhile thought,’ was that the approach he has chosen to take so far has produced results and outcomes,” Kirby said.
He added: “The approach that we’re taking with Israel and, quite frankly, with our partners in the region is working. It’s getting aid to people that need it. It’s getting a pause in the fighting. It’s getting hostages out. It’s getting Americans out.“
During the virtual meeting, Sullivan shared how the Biden administration would continue sending aid and assistance to Israel after its current cease-fire agreement ends with Hamas in Gaza.
The meeting was held via a teleconference in which Sullivan was at the White House and senators were in a classified room on Capitol Hill.
After the meeting, Van Hollen was joined by two other senators – Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I. – in asking President Biden to share his position and views publicly
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his country intends to continue its ground offensive from northern to southern Gaza when the current cease-fire ends.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.