Biden administration had toned down Kamala Harris’ Gaza speech, says report

Vice President Kamala Harris’ remarks calling for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza and for Israel to allow more aid into the territory with “no excuses” had been toned down by the Biden administration prior to her speech, according to a report.

On 3 March, the anniversary of the Bloody Sunday attack on civil rights protesters in Selma, Alabama, Ms Harris gave a speech where she said “the immense scale of suffering in Gaza” requires “an immediate ceasefire” for a period of at least six weeks.

She said that this proposal was currently “on the table” during negotiations between Israel and the militant group.

“People in Gaza are starving. The conditions are inhumane. And our common humanity compels us to act,” Ms Harris said. “The Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid — no excuses”.

She also called on Israel to “not impose any unnecessary restrictions on the delivery of aid,” to “ensure humanitarian personnel, sites and convoys are not targeted,” and to “work to restore basic services and promote order in Gaza so more food, water and fuel can reach those in need”.

The remarks by the vice president about the need for a ceasefire largely echoed comments made by President Joe Biden in a 1 March Oval Office meeting with Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni.

In that meeting, he also called for an “immediate ceasefire,” a small but important shift in language from even a few weeks ago, when administration officials routinely called for a “pause” in fighting rather than a “ceasefire”.

But it was Ms Harris’ comments that included some of the most forceful condemnations of the humanitarian situation in Gaza by a Biden administration official since the Israel began its campaign in Gaza in response to the 7 October 2023 attacks by Hamas.

Yet according to NBC News, a current and a former administration official said Ms Harris’ original draft was “harsher on Israel about the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and the need for more aid than were the remarks she ultimately delivered”.

US Vice President Kamala Harris during her speech on Sunday

(Getty Images)

As a result her proposed remarks were edited by staffers with the National Security Council, who ordered some changes in the prepared text before delivery.

Ms Harris’ communications director, Kirsten Allen, called the idea that the vice president’s remarks were watered down “inaccurate” in a statement to the network.

“The Vice President felt it was important to address the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, given recent developments, and to reiterate our Administration’s call on Hamas to accept the terms of the hostage deal,” she said. 

It’s not unusual for a senior official’s public remarks on foreign policy matters to be vetted by the National Security Council or other top administration figures, even if the official is as senior as the vice president.

The vetting ensures that all administration officials are accurately communicating administration policy and not getting ahead of the president or other officials.

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