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5 Mar, 2024 17:53

White House toned down VP’s Gaza speech – media

US officials reportedly tweaked prepared remarks by Kamala Harris out of concern she might be too “harsh” on Israel
White House toned down VP’s Gaza speech – media

White House national security officials reportedly watered down a recent speech written for US Vice President Kamala Harris over fears that her prepared remarks about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza were overly critical of Israel.

The original draft of the speech was deemed too harsh on the Jewish state when it was sent to the US National Security Council for review, NBC News reported on Tuesday, citing unidentified officials in the Biden administration. The speech, which Harris delivered on Sunday, called for a six-week ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war as part of a proposed deal to free hostages and get more humanitarian aid into Gaza.

“The move to soften Harris’ comments highlights how reluctant the White House still is to aggressively criticize Israel in public as President Joe Biden tries to maintain some influence over the Israeli government and secure a hostage deal,” NBC said.

The soft-pedaling also comes at a time when Biden is campaigning for reelection and facing a political backlash over his administration’s support for Israel in its war against Hamas. A poll released last week by research firm Data for Progress showed that 57% of US voters disapprove of Biden’s handling of the Gaza crisis. Just 36% of respondents agree with his policies. Two-thirds of US voters support calling for a permanent ceasefire.

Prepared remarks for Harris originally pressed Israel more directly about the need to immediately allow additional aid trucks to get into the Palestinian enclave, NBC reported. The revisions primarily tweaked the tone of her speech, rather than making policy changes. A spokeswoman for the vice president denied that her speech had been toned down.

In the final version, Harris decried the conditions in Gaza, calling the situation a “humanitarian catastrophe.” She added, “People in Gaza are starving. The conditions are inhumane, and our common humanity compels us to act.” The VP also insisted that Israel’s government “must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid.”

More than 30,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the latest conflict erupted in October after Hamas militants launched surprise raids on southern Israeli villages, killing over 1,100 people and taking hundreds of hostages back to Gaza. Since then, upward of 85% of the besieged enclave’s residents have been displaced by Israeli bombardments, and an estimated 570,000 people are starving, according to UN estimates.