President Joe Biden, during his time as a U.S. senator in the 1980s, delivered a “very impassioned speech” in which he expressed support for Israel defending itself, even if it meant killing women and children, according to a new report.
Biden made the comment during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting with former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in June 1982, according to the Times of Israel.
Begin told reporters at the time that Biden, whom he called a “talented speaker,” had endorsed Operation Peace for the Galilee — the Lebanon War — which had begun days earlier, the report says.
“The senator — Biden — said he would go even further than Israel, adding that he’d forcefully fend off anyone who sought to invade his country, even if that meant killing women or children,” writes the Times of Israel.
Begin reportedly said he “disassociated” himself from Biden’s comments.
“I said to him: No, sir; attention must be paid. According to our values, it is forbidden to hurt women and children, even in war. … Sometimes there are casualties among the civilian population as well. But it is forbidden to aspire to this. This is a yardstick of human civilization, not to hurt civilians,” Begin said, according to the report.
Biden’s past rhetoric has resurfaced amid renewed hostilities between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
The president said last week that he had spoken with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel “for a while” and declared his “unwavering support” for the country’s “right to defend itself.”
“I had a conversation with Bibi Netanyahu not so long ago. I’ll be putting out a statement very shortly on that,” Biden said at the White House on Wednesday.
“My expectation and hope is that this will be closing down sooner than later,” Biden said. “But Israel has a right to defend itself against thousands of rockets flying into your territory.”
On Monday, the president expressed his support for a cease-fire, according to the White House.
Biden has received criticism over his support of the Jewish state from a number of progressives, including members of the “Squad” in Congress who have said Israel is “promoting racism and dehumanization” under an “apartheid system.”