WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden will welcome European leaders Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen in Washington on Friday, at a summit set to deliver a message of unity amid the Israel-Hamas war and the war in Ukraine.
The EU-US summit takes place against a backdrop of global crises — as war erupted after the Hamas terror group launched a devastating attack on southern Israel, and as fighting rages on in Ukraine.
American and European leaders will be keen to present a united front, seeking to strengthen their “strategic partnership.”
Drawing parallels between Russia’s war in Ukraine and Hamas’s assault on Israel, European Commission President Von der Leyen, who visited Israel last week, said in a speech on Thursday that “these two crises, however different, call on Europe and America to take a stand and to stand together,” in order to “shelter our democracies.”
In particular, both sides are looking to avoid a potential second front in the Israel-Hamas conflict that would see the involvement of the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon — or a regional escalation with unpredictable ramifications.
“It’s particularly important that we redouble our efforts on both sides of the Atlantic to ensure that this conflict does not spill outside of its borders,” said an EU official on condition of anonymity.
The summit will be an opportunity “to send clear unified messages to all parties in the conflict,” the official told reporters ahead of the gathering.
Reassurance for Kyiv
A key issue at stake will be leaders’ ability to show strong, ongoing support for Ukraine.
Biden, who has just returned from a visit to Tel Aviv in a show of solidarity, addressed Americans on Thursday evening in a bid to unite them behind the defense of Israel and Ukraine — and secure the political consensus he needs to fund both causes.
War erupted in the Middle East after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw at least 1,500 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing some 1,400 people and seizing 200-250 hostages of all ages under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities.
The vast majority of those killed as gunmen seized border communities were civilians — men, women, children and the elderly. Entire families were executed in their homes, and over 260 were slaughtered at an outdoor festival, many amid horrific acts of brutality by the terrorists, in what Biden has highlighted as “the worst massacre of the Jewish people since the Holocaust.”
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza has said that more than 3,700 Palestinians have been killed across the Gaza Strip in Israeli retaliatory bombardments. The figures issued by the terror group cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include its own terrorists and gunmen, and the victims of a blast at a Gaza City hospital on October 17 caused by an Islamic Jihad missile misfire that Hamas has blamed on Israel.
Israel says its offensive is aimed at destroying Hamas’s infrastructure, and has vowed to eliminate the entire terror group, which rules the Strip. It says it is targeting all areas where Hamas operates while seeking to minimize civilian casualties.
The stakes are high with US Congress now paralyzed for more than two weeks as divided Republicans, who hold the majority in the House of Representatives, fail repeatedly to agree on electing a House speaker.
Congress also faces a November 17 deadline to act on the budget, so as to avoid a possible government shutdown.
At the summit, Biden is expected to reassure European leaders.
Speaking to the press on Thursday, Michel, who is European Council President, said he was “extremely confident” the US president would do all he could to secure Ukraine aid.
Also on the agenda is the involvement of third countries through which Russia is trying to circumvent sanctions.
“We are trying to close all the possible doors,” said Michel.
The last EU-US summit took place in Brussels, in June 2021.