President Joe Biden sparked serious confusion on Monday with a major gaffe that seemed to signal his support for an immediate ceasefire and end to hostilities between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, The Times of India reported.
The president quickly corrected himself to clarify that a discussion about a ceasefire could only commence after Hamas had released the more than 200 hostages it took during the wave of murderous terror attacks it launched in southern Israel on Oct. 7 that predominately targeted civilians and left more than 1,400 Israelis dead and thousands more wounded.
Biden's gaffe also crystalized the sharp rift that has been exposed within his Democratic Party, as some far-left progressives with little regard for Israel have demanded an immediate cessation of the Jewish nation's military response to the Hamas atrocities while other pro-Israel Democrats have expressed their support for Israel's efforts to root out and destroy Hamas as an organization.
Monday afternoon at the White House, President Biden delivered remarks on his "Bidenomics" agenda but seemed to cut his speech short by saying he had "another issue that I have to deal with" in the Situation Room.
He did pause his exit long enough to answer a couple of shouted questions from reporters, however, including, "Is the U.S. supporting the hostages-for-a-ceasefire deal?"
Biden confusingly replied, "We should get the -- we should have a ceasefire -- not a ceasefire, we should have those hostages released, and then we can talk."
That referenced proposal, according to The Times of India, which is supported by a number of progressive Democrats, would have Biden lean on Israel to at least temporarily halt its military response against Hamas -- and presumably for Hamas to refrain from launching rockets or other attacks -- in order to allow for the release of hostage Israelis and the delivery of humanitarian supplies to Palestinians in Gaza.
USA Today reported on President Biden's remarks but glossed over the confusing gaffe and focused instead on the swift correction and implication that a potential ceasefire agreement could only be discussed after the hostages taken captive by Hamas, an unknown number of whom are American citizens, had been released.
That position seemed to also be supported by State Department spokesman Matthew Miller, who suggested that a ceasefire at this point in time would only serve to benefit Hamas while placing Israel at a disadvantage.
"Any ceasefire would give Hamas the ability to rest, to refit, and to get ready to continue launching terrorist attacks against Israel," the spokesman said. "You can understand perfectly clearly why that’s an intolerable situation for Israel, as it would be an intolerable situation for any country that has suffered such a brutal terrorist attack."
The Hill reported last week that a number of pro-Palestinian progressive Democrats, led by the openly anti-Israel "Squad" members of the House, issued a demand for President Biden to force Israel to accept a ceasefire and immediately end its retaliatory strikes and planned ground invasion against Hamas in Gaza.
Those anti-Israel voices were countered just a few days later, however, according to The Times of Israel, by more than half of all House Democrats who sent a letter to Biden that fully endorsed his strong stance in support of Israel and its stated goal of utterly destroying Hamas as an entity.
"We stand with you in supporting Israel and are ready to provide whatever assistance the state and people of Israel need to defend themselves and to ensure that hostages return home and those who perpetrated these crimes against humanity are held accountable," the letter, signed by 131 House Democrats, including all 24 Jewish House Democrats, stated.
To be sure, the letter also expressed support for the provision of humanitarian aid to Palestinians as well as a reminder that Israel needed to abide by "international law" in its efforts to destroy Hamas, but notably made no mention of a ceasefire or any sort of temporary halting of hostilities.