John Kirby, the pugnacious White House National Security Council spokesman responsible for defending the administration’s involvement in Israel’s war with Hamas, lost his cool after repeated questioning from a reporter about whether President Joe Biden was broadening the conflict by making recent strategic moves against Iran.
A female reporter with Al-Jazeera began by asking Kirby whether Israel’s “right and responsibility” to target Hamas should include receiving America’s help in chasing Hamas leadership beyond the boundaries of Gaza.
“Your question is presuming things I didn’t say,” Kirby starts, saying he did not confirm knowledge that Israel was responsible for a recent airstrike in Lebanon that killed a senior terrorist leader.
Israel “has a right and responsibility to go after Hamas leadership and we expect that they’ll do that in accordance with international law,” he added.
That wasn’t good enough for the reporter, who asked why the U.S. has positioned warships in the Red Sea following attacks by the Iranian-back Houthis on cargo ships given Iran’s “dominance” in the region.
“Is that not being seen as a provocation?” she asked.
“That’s certainly turning things upside down, isn’t it?” he replied. “Wouldn’t you consider provocation launching ballistic missiles and drones at commercial…” Kirby continues before the reporter attempts to cut him off.
“Wait wait wait, let me finish!” he snapped. “Wouldn’t that be considered provocation?” Kirby asked. “Targeting innocent merchant ships, innocent merchant sailors. That’s a provocation.”
“I am totally disagreeing with the premise of your question,” he quipped.
Since the October 7th attack on Israel by Hamas which claimed the lives of more than 1,400 civilians, the Jewish nation has responded with overwhelming countermeasures that have decimated Gaza, left thousands of Palestinian civilians dead, and pushed Hamas leadership into far corners of the region or neighboring countries like Lebanon. Despite pushback from progressives upset over the U.S.’s continued military support for Israel, President Biden has walked a careful line, defending the ally’s right to eliminate a major regional terrorist threat while urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to not repeat the mistakes of overreach that the U.S. arguably committed after the attacks on 9/11.
Republicans have largely stood firm on supporting continued funding for Israel’s war while balking at the price tag of supporting Ukraine’s resistance against Russia’s invasion. The president is now forced back to the bargaining table as another government shutdown deadline looms, and he may trade the GOP’s House leadership with increased border protections and deportation measures in exchange for international funds.