Biden and Irish Leader Use St. Patrick’s Day Visit to Address Gaza

Biden and Irish Prime Minister Leverage St. Patrick’s Day Meeting to Discuss Gaza Situation

On Sunday, President Biden transformed the typically joyous St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the White House into a moment to address the increasing global concern. This concern, shared by the Irish, centers on the plight of Palestinians amid the ongoing military operations in Gaza by Israel.

President Biden, standing with Leo Varadkar, the Prime Minister of Ireland, highlighted the pressing need to boost humanitarian aid in Gaza and to secure a ceasefire agreement. Varadkar, who has openly criticized Israel’s military response to the terrorist attack on October 7, joined Biden in this call to action. The gathering, which included numerous Irish American leaders and government officials, heard Biden advocate for a two-state solution as the sole route to enduring peace and security.

The White House celebration, usually marked by green decorations, shamrocks, and Guinness, offered President Biden a break from discussions on foreign policy and threats to democracy. However, during his visit to the U.S., Varadkar made it clear he would voice his concerns about the Middle East conflict to the American president.

Varadkar’s comments also resonated with the people back in Ireland. Given Ireland’s own history of resistance against British rule, the nation has been one of the staunchest European supporters of the Palestinian cause. Ireland stands out as the first EU country to advocate for a Palestinian state and the last to allow the establishment of an Israeli embassy on its soil.

“Mr. President, the Irish people are deeply disturbed by the unfolding catastrophe in Gaza. Leaders worldwide often question our empathy for the Palestinians,” Varadkar stated. He explained that the Irish see their own historical struggles reflected in the Palestinian experience.

While Varadkar supported the U.S. administration’s efforts to negotiate a ceasefire in exchange for hostage release, he also criticized Israel’s bombing strategies. Despite President Biden’s increasingly critical stance towards Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House has not indicated any plans to use military aid to Israel as leverage.

Varadkar emphasized the desperate need of the people in Gaza for basic necessities and for the cessation of bombings. He called for an end to hostilities on both sides, the safe return of hostages, and the provision of humanitarian aid.

These remarks followed Varadkar’s criticism of Israel’s actions since the deadly attack by Hamas on October 7, which resulted in significant casualties and the capture of hostages. He cautioned against the invasion of Rafah, a city in southern Gaza home to 1.5 million displaced Palestinians, labeling it a breach of international law. The conflict with Hamas has led to over 30,000 deaths in Gaza, many of whom were women and children, as reported by local health officials.

The White House has expressed opposition to any Israeli military action in Rafah that does not include comprehensive plans for evacuating displaced Palestinians. Egypt has stated its refusal to accept Palestinian refugees.

Amid discussions on the Middle East and the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, both leaders found time on Sunday to celebrate the shared history of their nations.

Biden, proud of his heritage, shared with the audience his fond memories of visiting his ancestral home in Ballina, Ireland, last year. The attendees, many adorned in green and enjoying pints of stout, eagerly engaged with the numerous references to Ireland.

“The Irish are unique in their nostalgia for the future,” Biden remarked, eliciting laughter from the crowd. He described this forward-looking perspective as a distinctly American trait as well, underscoring the deep connection between Ireland and the United States.