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In a Fox News interview about the Israel-Hamas war, Sen. Ted Cruz said “literally from within minutes of when this horrific attack began on Oct. 7, the Biden White House has been telling Israel, do not retaliate, cease-fire, stop, do not kill the terrorists.” But the Texas Republican has thin support for his claim.
The senator’s office referred us to an Oct. 7 post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, by the U.S. Office of Palestinian Affairs that urged “all sides to refrain from violence and retaliatory attacks.” The State Department told the Washington Free Beacon that it removed the post the same day because it “was not approved and does not represent U.S. policy.”
Aaron David Miller, a former U.S. State Department Middle East negotiator, told us Cruz is “wrong.” President Joe Biden and top administration officials “have been nothing other than completely supportive” of Israel, even as they have tried more recently to pressure Israel to limit civilian casualties in Gaza, allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, and consider how Gaza will be governed after the war, Miller said.
Biden’s Reaction to Hamas Attack
On Oct. 7, the day Hamas attacked Israel, the White House issued a statement from President Joe Biden about his phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Israel has a right to defend itself and its people,” Biden said, adding that he pledged to Netanyahu that the U.S. would provide Israel “all appropriate means of support.”
That same day, the White House held a background briefing with a “senior administration official” to “flesh out” Biden’s phone call with Netanyahu. That official said, “We have made it absolutely clear to Prime Minister Netanyahu, but to Israeli officials up and down, across the political spectrum and their national security spectrum, that we stand ready to offer all appropriate means of support to the government and people of Israel. And Israel has a right to defend itself and its people. Full stop.”
But on “Sunday Morning Futures,” Cruz had a different take. In a Nov. 12 interview, the Texas Republican said “the White House and the State Department have been undermining Israel” since Oct. 7.
“At every stage, the White House and the State Department have been undermining Israel,” Cruz said. “They have been urging Israel — literally from within minutes of when this horrific attack began on Oct. 7, the Biden White House has been telling Israel, do not retaliate, cease-fire, stop, do not kill the terrorists.”
As we said earlier, the senator’s office referred us to the Oct. 7 deleted post by the U.S. Office of Palestinian Affairs. We also found that Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s X account posted a tweet on Oct. 8 — the day of Blinken’s phone call with the Turkish foreign minister. In that post, which was also deleted, Blinken said he “encouraged Türkiye’s advocacy for a cease-fire and the release of all hostages held by Hamas immediately.”
In an Oct. 10 press conference, State spokesperson Matthew Miller said the Oct. 8 tweet was deleted because it was “unfortunately worded” and “did not capture” Blinken’s phone call a day earlier with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan.
The same day as the tweet, the State Department had released a statement on Blinken’s call with Fidan that was worded in a slightly different way that was meaningfully significant. It said, “The Secretary encouraged Türkiye’s continued engagement and highlighted the United States’ unwavering focus on halting the attacks by Hamas and securing the release of all hostages.”
“I think you would have to be intentionally misunderstanding what our position is, given the number of statements that we have made about supporting Israel’s right to defend itself, about supporting Israel taking direct action against Hamas,” Miller said. “The secretary spoke to that publicly on Sunday, on the Sunday shows. The president has spoken to it forcefully and we’ve issued a number of statements making that clear.”
Experts we spoke with agreed.
“The U.S. has been quite clear that it will not seek a cease-fire – at least right now – and I think that has been demonstrated most clearly on Secretary Blinken’s multiple visits to the region, and Biden’s own visit, and of course in U.S. actions, including voting against a U.N. resolution calling for cease-fire,” Jonathan Panikoff, director of the Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Program, told us in a phone interview.
Aaron David Miller, who served in the State Department under Democratic and Republican administrations between 1978 and 2003, said the Biden administration’s position on the Israel-Hamas war is framed by two public pronouncements — one early in the war and one a few days ago: Biden’s Oct. 10 speech to the nation about the Israel-Hamas war and his Nov. 18 op-ed in the Washington Post.
In his Oct. 10 speech, Biden spoke extensively about the brutality of the Oct. 7 attack against Israeli civilians. “So, in this moment, we must be crystal clear,” Biden said. “We stand with Israel. We stand with Israel. And we will make sure Israel has what it needs to take care of its citizens, defend itself, and respond to this attack.”
“His speech was incredibly powerful, perhaps one of the best of his presidency,” said Miller, who is now a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “In that speech, the president sent an unmistakable signal that it will give Israel the time, the space and the support it needed to destroy Hamas as a military organization.”
A day after that speech, Biden reiterated his “unshakeable” support for Israel’s right to defend itself in remarks at the White House to Jewish community leaders.
“In the days ahead, we’re going to continue to work closely with our partners in Israel and around the world to ensure Israel has what it needs to defend its citizens, its cities, and to respond to these attacks,” Biden said. “As I said yesterday, my commitment to Israel’s security and the safety of the Jewish people is unshakeable.”
Biden Rejects Cease-Fire
In recent weeks, liberals have spoken out about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and some have criticized Biden for what they see as unconditional support for Israel. Some members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have called for a cease-fire.
Biden, however, has rejected calls for a cease-fire, including most recently in his Nov. 18 op-ed in the Washington Post.
“As long as Hamas clings to its ideology of destruction, a cease-fire is not peace,” Biden said in his opinion piece. “To Hamas’s members, every cease-fire is time they exploit to rebuild their stockpile of rockets, reposition fighters and restart the killing by attacking innocents again. An outcome that leaves Hamas in control of Gaza would once more perpetuate its hate and deny Palestinian civilians the chance to build something better for themselves.”
Biden and administrative officials have called for “humanitarian pauses” to allow aid to flow into Gaza — but not a cease-fire. (Asked on Oct. 24 about the difference between “humanitarian pauses” and a cease-fire, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said it’s “a question of duration and scope and size.”)
“The U.S. is seeking humanitarian pauses – you are talking about hours or maybe a few days – to allow food, water, energy supplies, medical aid for humanitarian purposes,” Panikoff of the Atlantic Council told us. “Those pauses are far different than a cease-fire. They allow Israel to resume military operations.”
On Oct. 18, the U.S. voted no on a U.N. resolution calling for a “humanitarian pause” in Gaza, because it “made no mention of Israel’s right of self-defense,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said in a statement. Six days later, Blinken for the first time publicly called for “humanitarian pauses” at a U.N. Security Council meeting on Oct. 24 to allow “essential humanitarian assistance … to flow into Gaza.”
Miller, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Biden has been pressing Israel to consider three things. The first is to determine “how to prosecute the common objective that the administration and Israelis have – which is destroying Hamas’ capacity and to end its sovereignty in Gaza,” he said. “Second, how do you surge humanitarian assistance in the middle of a conflict and, third, what should be done after the military campaign.”
What the administration has not done is tell Israel to stop killing terrorists, as Cruz claimed, Miller said, adding that Cruz deserves “four or even five Pinocchios,” referring to the Washington Post Fact Checker’s rating system. (Four Pinocchios, the Post’s highest rating, is reserved for “whoppers.”)
“I don’t see the administration even telling Israel – you need to wrap this up,” Miller said. “They may reach that at some point” but not now.
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