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White House. Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. May 13 2024 – Video

White House news

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  All right.  Good afternoon, everyone. 

Q    Good afternoon.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Happy Monday.  Happy belated Mother’s Day to many of you here.  I have two things at the top, and then I’ll turn it over to our National Security Advisor.

So, this afternoon, the President and Vice President will host a reception celebrating Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month here at the White House. 

The Biden-Harris administration has leveraged the full force of the federal government to ensure the promise of America for all AA and NHPI communities, including by using an executive order establishing the President’s Advisory Commission and the White House Initiative on Asian American[s], Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.

The Biden-Harris administration has delivered the most equitable economic recovery on record, with nearly 15 million jobs created, including historic AA and NHPI small-business growth. 

We are also working to ensure equal access to quality education, expand affordable healthcare for children and families, combat hate, improve disaster recovery, preserve Indigenous heritage and lands, and protect civil rights by advancing language access and data equity.

And you’ll hear from the President directly on this work later today.

And finally, today, the Biden-Harris administration is kicking off this year’s Infrastructure Week.  I know you all are very excited about that.

We are celebrating the historic progress of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, which continues to create good-paying jobs, boost domestic manufacturing, strengthen supply chains, and grow the economy from the middle out and the bottom up.

While “Infrastructure Week” became an empty punchline during the prior administration, President Biden is delivering an “Infrastructure Decade” that will benefit communities for generations to come.

To date, our administration has announced over 56,000 infrastructure projects across the country and delivered over $450 billion from the Infrastructure Law. 

Today, we released an updated map showcasing thousands of projects that are underway, as well as new state-by-state factsheets that spotlight investments and projects across the President’s entire Investing [in] America agenda. 

This Infra- — Infrastructure Week, we are also calling out Congress — Repub- — Republicans in Congress, to be more specific, who voted against the President’s Infrastructure Law but are now showing up at the groundbreaking — groundbreaking events and ribbon cuttings. 

We’re also calling on congressional Republicans to extend funding for affordability, connectivity program, which has lowered Internet bills to enable more than 23 million households to access affordable high-speed Internet.

Without congressional actions, millions of Americans will see their Internet bills increase or lose Internet access at the end of the month.

With that, as you can see, our National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, is here to give a Middle East update.


MR. SULLIVAN:  Thank you, Karine.  And good afternoon, everyone.  Before I take your questions, I want to step back and make some comments on the latest developments in the Middle East. 

There has been a lot more heat than light in the recent coverage and commentary about the war between Israel and Hamas, so I want to take a moment today to get back to basics and lay out the administration’s view.  Here is how we see it.

One, this is a war between the state of Israel and the terrorist group Hamas, whose mission is to annihilate Israel and kill as many Jews as they can.  The war began on October 7th when Hamas massacred 1,200 people and took more than 200 hostages.  There was a ceasefire in place on October 6th.  Sinwar broke it.  The President has made clear the United States wants to see Hamas defeated and justice delivered to Sinwar.  There can be no equivocation on that.

Two, the Palestinian civilians caught in the middle of this war are in hell.  The death and trauma they’ve endured are unimaginable.  Their pain and suffering are immense.  No civilian should have to go through that.  This is on the President’s mind every day.

Three, Israel has an unusual, even unprecedented burden in fighting this war because Hamas uses hospitals and schools and other civilian facilities for military purposes and has built a vast network of military tunnels under civilian areas.  That puts innocent civilians in the crossfire.  It does not lessen Israel’s responsibility to do all it can to protect innocent civilians.

Four, we believe Israel can and must do more to ensure the protection and well-being of innocent civilians.  We do not believe what is happening in Gaza is a genocide.  We have been firmly on record rejecting that proposition. 

Five, the United States will continue to lead international efforts to surge humanitarian assistance throughout the Gaza Strip because innocent civilians should never go without food, water, medicine, shelter, sanitation, or other basic necessities.  Active diplomacy by President Biden has made a considerable difference in getting more aid into Gaza.  Now we are redoubling that diplomacy to press the key actors, including Israel and Egypt.  I discussed this issue with my Israeli and Egyptian counterparts yesterday.

Six, the United States has sent a massive amount of military assistance to Israel to defend itself against all threats, including Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran and its other proxies.  We are continuing to send military assistance, and we will ensure that Israel receives the full amount provided in the supplemental.  We have paused a shipment of 2,000-pound bombs because we do not believe they should be dropped in densely populated cities.  We are talking to the Israeli government about this. 

We still believe it is — would be a mistake to launch a major military operation into the heart of Rafah that would put huge numbers of civilians at risk without a clear strategic gain.  The President was clear that he would not supply certain offensive weapons for such an operation, were it to occur.  It has not yet occurred.  And we are still working with Israel on a better way to ensure the defeat of Hamas everywhere in Gaza, including in Rafah.  This has been the subject of detailed conversations between our professionals, and I discussed this again with my Israeli counterpart just yesterday.

Seven, military pressure is necessary but not sufficient to fully defeat Hamas.  If Israel’s military efforts are not accompanied by a political plan for the future of Gaza and the Palestinian people, the terrorists will keep coming back and Isra- — Israel will remain under threat.  We are seeing this happen in Gaza City.  So, we were talking to Israel about how to connect their military operations to a clear strategic endgame — about a holistic, integrated strategy to ensure the lasting defeat of Hamas and a better alternative future for Gaza and for the Palestinian people.

Eight, Israel’s long-term security depends on being integrated into the region and enjoying normal relations with the Arab states, including Saudi Arabia.  The advantages of strong partnerships were on display recently when a coalition of countries helped Israel defend itself against Iranian missiles and drones.  We need to consider the tactical battlefield situation in Gaza in light of the bigger strategic picture.  We should not miss a historic opportunity to achieve the vision of a secure Israel, flanked by strong regional partners, presenting a powerful front to deter aggression and uphold regional stability.  We are pursuing this vision every day.

Nine, we are urgently and relentlessly working for a ceasefire and a hostage deal, starting with the first phase and building to an enduring calm.  As the President said this weekend, there could be a ceasefire tomorrow if Hamas simply released women, wounded, and elderly hostages — all innocents. 

Israel put a forward-leaning proposal on the table for a ceasefire and hostage deal.  The world should be calling on Hamas to come back to the table and accept a deal.  The hostages include Americans and citizens from around the world.  The President is determined to bring them safe- — safely back to their loved ones.  And I met with the families of these American hostages again just this past Friday.  They know how hard the President is working on this.

Ten, Iran and its proxies have tried to take advantage of the war in Gaza to launch attacks on Israel.  Hezbollah is attacking every day.  The threat posed by Iran and its proxies to Israel, to regional stability, and to American interests is clear.  We are working with Israel and other partners to protect against these threats and to prevent escalation into an all-out regional war through a calibrated combination of diplomacy, deterrence, force posture adjustments, and use of force when necessary to protect our people and to defend our interests and our allies.  We will not let Iran and its proxies succeed. 

These are President Biden’s positions.  They reflect his commitment to getting an outcome in Gaza and across the broade- — broader Middle East that protects Israel’s future security and paves the way for a future of dignity and security for the Palestinian people, as well, rather than Israel getting mired in a counterinsurgency campaign that never ends and ultimately saps Israel’s strength and vitality. 

And this is all consistent with President Biden’s longstanding view that, ultimately, a two-state solution is the only way to ensure a strong, secure, Jewish, democratic state of Israel, as well as a future of dignity, security, and prosperity for the Palestinian people.

One last thing.  No president has stood stronger with Israel than Joe Biden.  He was the first president ever to visit Israel during wartime.  He is protecting Israel at the United Nations.  He mobilized a coalition to directly defend Israel against an unprecedented Iranian attack.  He led the bipartisan effort to pass a supplemental that ensures Israel’s defense and military edge for years to come.

His commitment to Israel is ironclad.  Ironclad doesn’t mean you never disagree.  It means you work through your disagreements, as only true friends can do.  That’s exactly what we’ve done for the past seven months, and that’s what we’ll keep doing. 

And with that, I’ll be happy to take your questions.


Q    Thank you, Jake.  Just a week ago, the administration sounded optimistic on the prospect of a ceasefire and hostage deal.  Now those talks appear to have stalled.  Can you provide an update?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Well, I have been quoting George Mitchell of late, who negotiated peace between the warring parties in Northern Ireland.  And Senator Mitchell said quite famously that negotiations are a thousand days of failure and “one day of success.” 

And right now, we’re in the former days rather than the latter day.  And this particular negotiation has had its ups and downs, its ins and outs, its twists and turns.  And what I laid out in my opening comments remains the case: There could be a ceasefire tomorrow if Hamas would just go ahead and release women, wounded, and elderly.

We do believe Israel has put a good proposal on the table.  Hamas has put a counterproposal on the table. 

The world is calling for a ceasefire.  Those who are doing so should go to Hamas and say, “Come to the table and work until we get a deal.”  I can’t predict when and if that will happen.  I can tell you that we remain committed to pressing the diplomacy to achieve that outcome on behalf of the American hostages and all the hostages and on behalf of getting to an enduring calm in Gaza.

What exactly the next step is we will have to see.  This is a dynamic situation that involves the diplomatic element as well as the military element, including the recent operations that Israel has taken in Rafah.  So, we will now have to see how things unfold in the coming days.

Q    The White House has said that it was down to language.  What is it down to now?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Well, in the end, when you’re talking about a phased agreement that has multiple elements relating to sequencing of hostages coming out, movement of military capabilities, surging of humanitarian assistance, movement of civilians, all these things are quite detailed.  And working through those details is what is going to be necessary to get this across the finish line.

We believe there is a framework that both sides could sign up to, and it’s really about the specifics of that framework and filling that out that’s necessary.  Language ends up being on a page, but it is what reflects the implementation of those details.  That’s what we’re working with the parties — both with Israel and with Qatar and Egypt, who are in close touch with the representatives of Hamas.  And we’ll keep you updated as we drive to the finish line.

We are intent and determined to get all of the hostages home.  We are intent and determined to produce a ceasefire and hostage deal.  We believe we can achieve that.  I cannot tell you when.


Q    Jake, I want to ask you about Russia.  But just first on this — on this topic.  In the readout, your call with Israeli officials yesterday, it said that you’re going to have this meeting again in person soon.  Is your expectation — well, one, when is your expectation that meeting will happen?  And do you expect that there won’t be a Rafah offensive until that meeting has taken place?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I expect it’ll happen in a matter of days, not weeks.  We haven’t announced a specific date on the calendar.  But this isn’t going to be long in the future.  We’re just talking about scheduling so that we can get the teams together.  Because, of course, it’s not just me meeting my counterpart.  It’s military intelligence and humanitarian

professionals on both sides being a part of that conversation as well. 

And what I expect is that we will have an opportunity to talk further about the best way to ensure Hamas’s defeat everywhere in Gaza, including in Rafah, in the context of that conversation and that that opportunity will still be available to us when we show up for that conversation. 

Q    And then — and then Zelenskyy’s advisor said today that this new — these new Russian government appointments, including the defense minister, show that Moscow is going to try to scale up its war effort and reconfigure its economy for its defense needs.  Is that your assessment of this shake-up as well?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Look, it’s an opaque system.  It’s run by one man: Vladimir Putin.  He calls the shots.  He may move around professionals into various roles, but at the end of the day, he seems bound and determined to continue to try to inflict a brutal war of aggression on Ukraine.  We’ll take whatever comes, support Ukraine alongside a coalition of countries, and — and see what happens. 

So, I don’t have a specific comment on the nature of this change-up in their government.  I’ve seen that speculation from the Ukrainians.  It’s not unreasonable.  But I can’t draw any conclusions at this point.  We’ll have to see what unfolds. 


Q    Thanks, Jake.  Does the U.S believe that Sinwar or other top Hamas leaders are hiding in Rafah?  And, if not, why do the Israeli forces continue to push further into Rafah?  What reasons are they giving you?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Look, I’ve seen the public reporting on this both in Israeli press and in American press, citing intelligence officials suggesting he’s not actually in Rafah.  I’m not going to comment from intelligence — on intelligence operations from the podium.  So, I’m afraid I can’t go further in trying to answer your question.

But it’s a reasonable question if, in fact, it were the case that he weren’t in Rafah.  But I can’t confirm that one way or the other from this podium.

Q    But what reasons are the Israelis giving for why they continue to push forward in Rafah?  And do you get the sense that they’re taking the U.S. warning and threat seriously?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Look, I think that they have taken the sustained conversation that we have had with them about how to seek an enduring defeat for Hamas while minimizing civilian harm — I think they have been taking that seriously.  We’ve had multiple rounds of conversations — professional to professional, President to Prime Minister.  We will continue those conversations.  We have been very clear about where we stand, and we’ve also been clear that we’re here to actually offer constructive ideas for how to proceed with this in a way that will ultimately achieve the objective. 

One of the points I made at the outset that I think bears repeating is that really any military operation — a targeted operation, a larger operation on the ground or in the air — has got to be connected to a strategic endgame that also answered the question, “What comes next?” 

And that’s something that we’re really bearing in on with the Israeli government and feel that there needs to be more attention on that piece of it, lest we end up in a circumstance where Israel conducts a military operation, kills a bunch of Hamas guys, also creates some harm to innocent civilians caught in the crossfire, and then terrorists come back, as we have seen them come back in Gaza City and Khan Yunis and other places.  

We want to avoid that outcome.  We want an outcome in which the page gets turned from Hamas’s terroristic reign over Gaza and a better future comes for the Palestinian people and for the security of the State of Israel.  That’s what we’re going to keep working through. 


Q    Thanks, Jake.  I know you don’t — previously haven’t wanted to talk about drawing red lines, but Israel is continuing to strike Rafah and they’re continuing to order the evacuation of large numbers of civilians.  So, how will you assess when it has crossed over into that — into a full-scale offensive from the current, you know, operations that are happening now?

MR. SULLIVAN:  We’re watching this very closely, as you are.  We’re consulting closely with the Israelis.  We’re collecting our own assessment of what’s happening on the ground.  The Israeli Defense Forces have indicated to us that the operations they are currently pursuing are targeted; they are not the kind of massive military operation that we have talked about. 

We’ll make our own judgment on that as we see things unfolding, and it will be based on a totality of factors.  It’s not a mathematical formula or a mechanical determination.  It’s something we will judge based on what we see.  And the President will then make his determinations.  We have not seen that happen yet. 

Yes, April. 

Q    Jake, you’ve said some of the most strongest words yet about the Palestinians — protecting them, protecting the innocent civilians, as well as ensuring their security and aid.  What has the — your department, the National Security Council, as well as Steve Benjamin said to Morehouse in the lead-up to the President’s speech trying to quell the concerns about protests during his commencement address this weekend?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I have not spoken with the folks at Morehouse, and I’d have to defer to Steve to relay to you what he’s said to them in their conversations.  We’re, of course, focused on the policy as it relates to the ongoing war and the situation in the Middle East.  I have not been engaged in or involved in the preparations for the President’s commencement address.

Q    But is this message important to get out right now, as there are people who are walking out on college commencement addresses, as people are turning their backs wearing scarves that represent Palestinians?  Is this message important to get out for these upcoming commencement addresses that the President is delivering? 

MR. SULLIVAN:  The President called Prime Minister Netanyahu at the beginning of April, more than a month ago, to register his very strong concern about the need to get more humanitarian assistance in, and he put out a strong public statement at that time.  So, the premise of your question that I’m now coming to speak about the issue of surging humanitarian assistance and protecting civilians is not a premise I’m afraid I can accept.  

The President has been very strong on this.  Secretary Blinken has been strong on it and not just in what they say but in the work that we are doing with Israel, with Egypt, with the United Nations, and, frankly, through our own activities, including airdrops and the work to get this pier in place to begin to surge humanitarian assistance in by sea. 

And when it comes to the issue of civilian harm and the question of trying to do everything possible to reduce the amount of civilian harm on the Strip, this is something the President has spoken to quite actively over a sustained period of time, as well, and is directly engaged with the Israelis on too.

Q    But you know there are people who are protesting the President’s appearance at Morehouse because of the Palestinian issue.  What do you say to those people directly?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I would say: Please read the remarks that I just gave to this room today, because I think it tries to lay out —

Q    It’s not flip — it’s not a flip —

MR. SULLIVAN:  I’m not being flip.  I’m telling you, April, straight up.  What I’ve just laid down here today encapsulates the President’s position on something that is both simple and complex.  It is simple because Hamas is an evil terrorist organization that needs to be defeated, period.  It is complex because doing that, in the context of what is happening in the Gaza Strip, is a complex military operation.  And, frankly, the regional situation makes it even more complex. 

And people of good faith have very strong views on this issue.  And we will engage with people across the — you know, across the board of — of folks who have come to this with their own perspective, their own worldview, and all we can do is tell them how do we see it, where do we stand. 

And what I’ve tried to lay out for you step by step is where we stand on a set of issues that raise questions of policy, of course, but al- — are also deeply human.  They’re deeply human for the hostage families.  They’re deeply human for those who lost their lives in a massacre on October 7th and whose loved ones lost their lives.  It’s deeply human for innocent people who are caught in the crossfire and are struggling to get access to basic necessities. 

And we’re going to keep speaking to that as we go forward and continue to follow what we believe is in the best interests and in — and reflective of the values of this country. 

Q    Jake, in the back.


Q    Thanks, Jake.  The — there’s a New York Times analysis today that showed Russian missiles breaking through Ukrainian air defenses in far greater numbers over the past couple of months, interceptions down.  At the same time, there’s this — apparently, you know, Russian forces gathering and surging on this new front in the north. 

Is any of this the result of delays in getting arms to the Ukrainians, or what accounts for this turn?

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, part of it is the fact that Russia has continued to push the envelope in terms of just the brutality and intensity of its campaign.  It has sought more targets across a wider range of Ukraine — most of them civilian, frankly — trying to destroy the Ukrainian electricity grid with an even greater determination this year than they had last year.

Part of it is about the need for us — the United States and our coalition of countries — to surge up more air defense in so that Ukraine has it. 

And, yes, part of it is about a six-month delay in being able to get assistance to Ukraine.  That has put Ukraine in a hole, and we’ve made no bones about that from this podium. 

So, we have started moving air defense to them.  We intend to move more in.  And by “we,” I don’t just mean the U.S.  I mean our whole coalition, with the President, Secretary Austin, myself working day in, day out to coordinate those deliveries and to put Ukraine in a position where it is better able to defend against what Russia is throwing at them.  And what they are throwing at them is quite considerable. 


Q    Can I follow up on that?  Can you quantify how quickly is that new — the new packages of military assistance arriving on the battlefield in Ukraine and if the U.S. is confident that they’ll arrive in time for — for the Ukrainians to be able to fend off advances in the Kharkiv — in Kharkiv and other regions?

MR. SULLIVAN:  The same day that the law took effect — now two, three weeks ago — the President signed out a billion-dollar package.  Some of that equipment is already on the battlefield.  On Friday, he signed out another package.  Some of that equipment will get onto the battlefield this week.

Now, some of it has a longer lead time, in terms of our ability to ship it, organize it, and get it in.  So, I don’t want to suggest that all billion dollars’ worth of equipment is on the battlefield.  But what you will see is a steady flow week by week.  It’s not like we’ve got to wait well out into the future before stuff starts getting delivered. 

And we are going to have another what we call PDA — Presidential Drawdown Authority — package just in the coming days, because we’re trying to really accelerate the tempo of the deliveries, recognizing, as I said before, the delay put Ukraine in a hole, and we’re trying to help them dig out of that hole as rapidly as possible.

Q    Can we expect PDAs every week now or even faster?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I — how we do the drawdown is a little bit less of the central issue than what the size of it is and what the sequence of actual deliveries are.  So, I’m not going to suggest that there’ll be a drawdown every week.  What I am going to suggest is that the level of intensity being exhibited right now, in terms of moving stuff, is at a 10 out of 10. 

I spoke this morning, along with Secretary Austin and Chairman Brown, with our counterparts in Ukraine — General Syrskyi, Minister Umerov, and — and Andrii Yermak.  We spoke for 90 minutes.  It was a detailed conversation about the situation on the front, about the capabilities that they are most in need of, and a real triage effort to say, “Get us this stuff this fast so that we can be in a position to effectively defend against the Russian onslaught.” 

And so, at the highest levels in our government, we are engaged with the highest levels of theirs to be able to ensure that we’re doing everything humanly possible, both ourselves and our allies who are surging equipment as well to get it there to the frontlines. 

Q    And can I actually follow up on an Israel question?  Sorry.  Secretary Blinken said yesterday that Israel could be, quote, “holding the bag on an enduring insurgency.”  I’m curious whether — would Israel be holding that bag alone?  In other words, are you — is there any concern or are you concerned that Israel’s ongoing prosecution of the war using U.S. weapons is going to help Hamas cultivate kind of a new generation of — of people who will be, you know, targeting U.S. interests and attacking Americans?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Look, we have a painful experience in counterinsurgency campaigns fighting terrorists in urban environments and populated areas, and we know that it is not as simple as executing a military operation and calling it a day. 

As I said in my opening comments, military operation has to be connected to a political plan for the day after so that there is a clear alternative and there is governance and there is security and all of the steps you need to take to finally and fully defeat a hardened, entrenched terrorist foe.

And, yes, one of the risks of engaging in any kind of counterinsurgency campaign is the ability of the terrorist group to attract more recruits and more followers as time goes on.  This is something we have talked to the Israelis about. 

So, one of the key points that we have been reinforcing is to step back just from a tactical military analysis of the situation and ask strategically: How do we get to the common goal, the enduring defeat of Hamas?  And that is going to require military pressure, yes.  But more than just military pressure — a political plan to get there.

Q    In the back, Jake.

Q    Hi.  Thank you.  One of the big questions about Rafah is that — why does the United States — the strongest ally of Israel, the biggest weapons supplier — seem to have so little clout with the Netanyahu government. 

And you said, for instance, that they need a strategic endgame.  They don’t have one yet.  Bibi Netanyahu has said they’re going to go ahead in Rafah no matter what.  What is the evidence that the United States still has clout with the Netanyahu government?  Or is it just too early to tell? 

MR. SULLIVAN:  Well, I think you can go back to the beginning and look at the pattern of engagement of the United States and the impact that it’s had on, for example, the flow of humanitarian assistance.  And we believe also that in engaging Israel on the question of civilian protection and civilian harm, they have made adjustments over the course of time.

And then, with the question of a strategic endgame, I don’t think that’s really a question about American influence.  That’s a question about Israel’s strategy and what Israel chooses to do.  The Prime Minister doesn’t have to answer to us on that.  He’s got to answer to the Israeli people on that because he’s —

Q    Well, you’re encouraging him to do this, and he doesn’t have one yet.

MR. SULLIVAN:  — he’s ultimately having to deliver for them the long-term security and a clear answer to the question: How does Hamas get defeated on an enduring basis, and what comes after?

So, I think sometimes this whole issue gets put a little bit too much into the frame of the U.S. and Israel and not enough into the frame of these are sovereign Israeli decisions that they’re making in a democracy.  Their leadership is choosing how to prosecute this war.  They are going to make those decisions.  We’re a sovereign country too.  We’re going to make our decisions.

And as a very good friend of Israel, we are going to stand with them as they work to defeat their determined enemy.  But we’re also going to offer our advice and make clear where we stand on these issues as well. 

That’s the most we can do.  That’s the most you could ask of anyone.  That’s what we will do every day.  We do believe it has borne results.  We hope it will bear more results in the period ahead. 


Q    Thanks, Jake.  Another question on Secretary Blinken’s comments yesterday.  He said that even if Israel goes further into Rafah, then there will still be thousands of Hamas soldiers left.  So, why is then Israel saying that they have to go into Rafah to defeat Hamas?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Look, I’ll leave that to the Israeli government. 

A point that we have made to them is that Israel has gone through Gaza City.  Israel has gone through Khan Yunis.  And in both places, you’ve seen terrorists emerge from the rubble because, from our perspective, there’s not a sufficient integration of a military plan with a political plan. 

We have concerns about that.  We’ve raised those concerns — not with rancor but because we want to see a successful outcome to this war.  We want to see Hamas defeated.  We want to see its leaders — justice delivered to its leader, starting with Sinwar.

So, we’ll continue to talk to them about this.  But really, that question, which is a good question, is a question best posed to the Israelis who are formulating the military plans that they are unfolding.

Q    A quick question on China tariffs.  What is the President’s goal with his review of those tariffs?  And do you expect any retaliation from China if tariffs are, in fact, raised? 

    MR. SULLIVAN:  So, I will not get ahead of the President on this.  I’ve seen, obviously, all of the reporting on it.  It — it’s no secret that the President, this entire administration has been concerned about unfair practices by the PRC that harm American workers and businesses, the issue of overcapacity, the ways in which China has put in place a series of nonmarket distorting practices and strategic sectors.  And he has said consistently, “I’m going to stand up and push back against that.”

And so, that’s the frame that he approaches this with.  And then I’m going to leave the specifics to be announced in due course — I would say in short order.


Q    Jake, you cited the humanitarian aid as a way to influence Israel (inaudible) U.S.  But this — even the aid coming to Gaza has been curtailed now.  It’s barely — it’s been blocked to barely any aid coming in.  And also, the repeated attack by settlers and extremists in the West Bank (inaudible) the aid in.  So, how can you make sure that actually the U.S. has that clout that you mentioned? 

And second, if you’ll allow me, many Arab states said that (inaudible) allies said they’re not going to take part in the day-after plan in Gaza in any shape or form, whether it’s a force or its administration.  Netanyahu said, too, that he doesn’t want the PA to take part or a two-state solution. 

So, what’s your vision when it comes to the day after?  How can you push the Israelis to materialize this into some kind of plan of action?

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, on the first question, in the past few days, since Israel took the Rafah crossing, we have seen difficulty getting aid through either Rafah or Kerem Shalom, and this is a matter of great concern to us.  This is something we’re working not just with the Israeli government but the Egyptian government and the United Nations, because it will take all three of them working together to make this happen.

In the meantime, Israel has opened yet another crossing in the north beyond Erez, a crossing called Zikim, and has moved flour through that crossing.  We have managed to get some fuel in down through the south despite all of the other difficulties. 

This is an urgent and critical situation.  We have got to get those crossings open to get more aid in.  That has been an issue of the past three days since these military operations, and it’s something we are working through with all the relevant parties. 

It is a total outrage that there are people who are attacking and looting these convoys coming from Jordan going to Gaza to deliver humanitarian assistance.  We are looking at the tools that we have to respond to this.  And we are also raising our concerns at the highest level of the Israeli government, and it’s something that we make no bones about.  This is completely and utterly unacceptable behavior.

On the day after, we are, in fact, having constructive conversations with Arab states about it.  But what they do want to see is a political horizon.  They want an answer to what does the long-term future look like for the Palestinian people.  That’s something we’re talking about with them.  That’s something we’re talking about with the Israeli government as well.


Q    Thanks, Jake.  Just to your — put a little bit of a point on Nadia’s question.  Is Israel restricting the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza, or is it not?

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, first, I would point you to the findings of the State Department report that just came out over the weekend.  We believe that there were periods over the last few weeks where there were restrictions that had to be worked through.  But at the time we put that report forward, we felt that there was sufficient work being done by the Israeli government with respect to the facilitation of humanitarian aid that we did not make a judgment that anything had to be done in terms of U.S. assistance. 

Q    So —

MR. SULLIVAN:  That continues to be our position today.

Q    So, in plain language, they’re restricting that, but it’s okay in the way that they’re restricting?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Those are your words.  They are certainly not my words.  I’m not sure if that’s how you ask questions. 

But, yeah, go ahead.

Q    Jake, good afternoon.  As we sit here seven months into this war in Gaza, how confident are you, as you stand there, that the hostages — the remaining hostages will come home, A?  And, B, how many of them do you believe are actually still alive? 

MR. SULLIVAN:  I cannot give you a clear number of how many are still alive because we do not have total fidelity on that, unfortunately.  And it’s something that we watch every single day.  We know there are deceased hostages, and we know there are living hostages.  And we know that with each passing day, the risk to those hostages also goes up, which only redoubles our commitment to try to get to a ceasefire and hostage deal as rapidly as possible.

But, unfortunately, I’m not in a position to give you fidelity on those numbers because nobody entirely has it.  We have our analysis, our assessments.  Some of that is driven by intelligence, so I have to be cautious in sharing them.  But I — to look you in the eye and say, “We know exactly how many are alive,” nobody can do that for you.

Q    And how would you describe the relationship between — right now between President Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I would describe the relationship as how it’s been for the duration of the time that they’ve known each other.  It is straightforward.  It is direct.  It is a relationship where the two of them can each share — share their views and perspectives.  And that is how it’s going to continue as we go forward.

And I’ll take one more.  Yeah.

Q    Thank you, Jake.  A quick Ukraine follow-up (inaudible).  Ukraine’s government is desperately asking for anti-aircraft assets, including Patriot batteries.  What’s the plan?  How are you going to get those to them?  Through which allies or (inaudible)?

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, one of the things I do every single day is talk to at least one ally, if not multiple, about getting more Patriot batteries into Ukraine.  And I think we recently had some good news from an ally about getting one in.  We’re working on more.  That’s just something that we’re going to continue to try to procure.

And beyond Patriots, we’re looking for other systems, as well, because we believe that there are a number of allies who have capabilities they could share and ways in which the United States could help them with their — their air defense needs as a backfill.  That is an ongoing conversation.  It is a — it is a matter of utmost priority.

Q    So, just to be clear, you’re looking at, like, one or two at a time, not dozens, not a bigger number?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I mean, do- — dozens of Patriot batteries I don’t think is the right order of magnitude for what we’re trying to get in there.

Q    And then on the Middle East.

Q    Jake, a Ukraine question.

Q    Jake, you forgot the back of the room.

MR. SULLIVAN:  All right.  I’ll — I’ll take you last.  Yeah.  Fine.

Q    Awesome.  Thank you.

Q    We’re a package deal.  (Laughter.)

Q    Egypt has said that they will support South Africa’s case at the ICJ against Israel for genocide.  How is that affecting the negotiations right now, the situation in general?  And, you know, what is — what is Washington’s message to Cairo about this decision on their part?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I can’t say that it’s helpful to the discussions between Egypt and Israel to try to sort out the humanitarian assistance and access issues.  But I do know that Egypt, Israel, the United States, the United Nations, we are all trying to work together to figure out a way forward. 

So, last question.

Q    Okay.  Thank you.  You said at the start of this that you don’t believe what’s happening in Gaza is genocide.  What criterion are you using?

MR. SULLIVAN:  We’re using the internationally accepted term for genocide, which includes a focus on intent.  And it’s not just me standing here at this podium.  In the context of this International Court of Justice case at The Hague, the United States actually made a presentation backed up by legal analysis, which I would invite you to read because it lays out all of —

Q    Okay.  Because I looked up —

MR. SULLIVAN:  — those criterion.

Q    — Francesca Albanese, the Special U.N. Rapporteur on human rights in Palestine presented one in March.  Her — she presented it in Geneva.  The three criterion she used, citing international law, three acts: Israel’s intent to destroy national ethnic, racial, or religious groups; serious bodily or mental harm to a group; inflicting on a group conditions of life calculated to bring physical destruction, in whole or in part, with imposing measures intended to prevent birth within the group; process of erasure of the native Palestinians. 

So, those three things are happening.  How can you say genocide is not being committed?

MR. SULLIVAN:  As I just told you, I think the best way for me to answer that question is actually to ask you to look at the laydown that we gave which —

Q    I just laid out — are you saying this isn’t happening? 

MR. SULLIVAN:  I’m sorry, I thought you asked me how I can say it.  I’m saying I’d like you to look at the United States’ —

Q    I just did. 

MR. SULLIVAN:  Ca- — ca- —

Q    I’m asking: Are you saying this isn’t happening? 

MR. SULLIVAN:  Ca- — do you mind if I finish answering your question before you interrupt?

Q    I’m challenging you to say — are you saying that she’s a liar?

MR. SULLIVAN:  The United States has laid down at the International Court of Justice in writing, in detail its position on this issue, and I’d ask you to read it.  Thank you. 

Q    Are you saying that it doesn’t line up for them with what she’s saying? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thank you, Jake.  Thank you, Jake. 

Okay.  I know — folks are leaving right now.  Okay.  I have — I have an effect on folks.  (Laughter.)

I know there is a call happening in short order.  And so — and I know it’s about an issue that you all care about.  So, feel free to — to step away from the briefing.  And I won’t — I won’t be up here too much longer.  As you know, we’ll have a briefing tomorrow and the next day and the next day and the next day. 

Go ahead, Seung Min.

Q    At a fundraiser over the weekend, the President began his remarks by talking about Israel.  He said, “Israel said it’s up to Hamas; if they wanted to do it, we could end it tomorrow.  It all has to do” — and then he cut himself off and said, “I shouldn’t get into all of this.  I don’t want to get going.”  Can you just finish his sentence for us?  (Laughter.)  And what do you — and what he was trying to say when — especially when he was talking about “it all has to do” with —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I — I’m — obviously, I — as I say often, certainly going to let the President speak for himself. 

Q    But he didn’t finish speaking, so can you finish?  (Laughs.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I know, I know.  But I — look — look, I think, obviously, Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor, came here and gave a very good and — and detailed, in-depth laydown of where we are.  And it’s very much where the President is.  And he talked about humanitarian aid, obviously, the importance of getting that into — into Gaza, and — and how we want to make sure that we deal with what we’re seeing there with the dire — dire situation in Gaza. 

Obviously, he talks about our continued support.  He talked about our continued support for Israel’s security.  That is ironclad.  That is what we want to make sure that, you know, they are able to defend themselves. 

And so, I think all of that remains to be true: hostage deal, we want to get to a ceasefire, and also create a situation where we can get more of that humanitarian aid, bring hostages home. 

So, all of that continues to be true.  I think the words that you heard from the President’s National Security Advisor, I think, is — is very clear on where the President is.  I — you know, I can’t — I can’t, you know, speak beyond — beyond that. 

And, you know, I think the — the President started out saying what was on his mind.  But, more broadly, how — where we are with the situation in Gaza and Israel has been very clear.  And we want to continue to — to lay that out.  That is one of the reasons that — that Jake came out here. 

Q    And a quick one.  The House is likely to vote on the Israel Security Assistance Support Act later this week, which would ban the administration from withholding military aid to Israel that have been congressionally approved.  Is that something that — it’s obviously a response to the President’s comments over the last week.  So, is that something that the White House would oppose?  Are you talking to Democrats who might be inclined to go with Republicans on this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I’ll start off — I just repeated basically what — what I wanted to say to this question, which is Pre- — this President has been very clear.  His — his commitment to Israel’s security is ironclad.  That has not changed. 

We share Israel’s goal of defeating Hamas and will continue to stand with Israel to make that happen.  We’ve been very clear.

As it relates to the announcement that the President made in the interview yes- — last week on CNN, we have paused only one shipment.  That includes 2,000-pound bombs, which can be very destructive in densely populated urban environments such as Rafah.  You heard, obviously, Jake just speak to this. 

And then so, regarding this bill — as you just asked me about, Seung Min — we strongly, strongly oppose attempts to constrain the President’s ability to deploy U.S. security assistance consistent with U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives.  It is — it is our objective, as well, that we plan to spend every last cent appropriated, consistent with legal obligations, including in the recent supplemental — that national — national security supplemental that was just passed and the President obviously signed.  We are committed to that — to that supplemental.  So, that has not changed. 

Go ahead, April. 

Q    Karine, this week, President Biden is going to commemorate the anniversary of Brown v. Board.  Does this president or — and/or this administration believe that Brown v. Board may have been weakened by the Supreme Court’s decision on affirmative action in college admissions? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as you just stated in — in your question to me, the President is going to commemorate the Browned — Brown v. Board, and he’s also going to meet with the families.  That’s going to happen on Thursday. 

On Friday, he’s going to go over to the National Museum of Af- — African American History and Culture.  He’ll be there on Friday to give a really important speech. 

I don’t want to get ahead of — ahead of the President.  But to your question about the Supreme Court’s ruling in Students for Fair Admissi- — Admini- — Admissions v. Harvard last year, the President reiterated that his administration will fight to preserve the hard-earned progress we have made to advance racial equity, civil rights, and expand educational opportunity for all Americans. 

Specifically, the President called on colleges and universities, when selecting among qualified applicants, to give serious consideration to advers- — adversities students have overcome, including the financial means of a student or their family; where a — a student grew up and went to high school; and personal experience of hardship and discrimination, including racial discrimination that a student may have faced.

As the President said last June, when this verdict came down, he strongly disagrees with the court decision and believes that one of the greatest strengths of America is indeed our diversity. 

The President, again, is going to speak about this on Friday, so I don’t want to get ahead of him.  But we have made very clear how we feel about this decision that happened almost a year ago.

Q    But does he believe that it undermines Brown v. Board, this historic integrate — this historic ruling that integrates schools, and we are actually seeing the segregation of schools still in this country? 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I totally agree with all the points that you made.  I laid out what we thought about that decision that came last — last June.  And we had said it is something that is concerning — incredibly concerning. 

The President is going to give a speech on Friday.  I’m going to let the President speak for himself.  He will address this.  Obviously, we are indeed — we are indeed commemorating the landmark Browd [Brown] v. Board of Education.  And so, that’s something.  We’re going to meet with the families on Thursday. 

So, you see a pattern here that the President is going to meet with the families on Thursday, he’s going to give remarks on Friday, and he will — he will speak to this himself.  But wanted to lay down what we have said already about — about the ruling — the Admissions ruling versus Harvard that happened last year.  We’ve been very clear about that. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go.  And then I’ll go to you.

Q    Argentine Foreign Minister Diana Mondino is going to be in town this week.  She’s going to meet Antony Blinken from the State Department.  Can you confirm she has a meeting with Jake Sullivan here at the White House?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have anything for you.  Once we have something to share, certainly we will share that with you all. 

Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  So, Warren Buffett this month said that “taxes will have to be raised to pay for the national debt.”  He said, “The government will — may want to decrease spending.”  So, with — you know, we’ve had announcement after announcement of taxpayer money being doled out — we’ve seen almost weekly now.  Is the federal government spending too much money?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, let me just say a couple things that Warren Buffett did say that we certainly agree with, and I’ll quote him: “The wealthy are definitely undertaxed relative to the general population,” which is why the President has a plan to make sure that the wealthiest among us, the billionaires and big corporations, pay their fair share.  And we’ve been very clear about that. 

They pair th- — they pay their fair share in order to pay for — for his investments in America and cut the deficit by $3 trillion.  And it — and Buffett also said it doesn’t ma- — bother him to pay taxes. 

And so, it has been very clear.  The President has said that he will not raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000.  That is what the President has said.  Warren Buffett pretty much agrees with us.  We agree, obviously, with him. 

And this is very different than what Republicans want to do.  They put out their plan.  They put out what they want to do.  They want to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, give tax breaks to billionaires and corporations. 

We do not agree with this.  And what we want to do is continue to make sure that we’re lowering costs for Americans, for families — whether it is Big Pharma, fighting Big Pharma; lowering healthcare costs; making sure that we go after corporation, as we — as we — you hear us talk about junk fees.  Those are the ways that we want to move forward.  That’s what our focus is.

Q    So, increase taxes to pay the debt?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We — on — but let’s be really, really clear — right? — on billionaires and big corporations, who Warren Buffett him said — himself said — as you started asking me about Warren Buffett, he says that they are undertaxed.  And that is something that the President agrees on.  And he believes if we are able to do that, to tax corporations and billionaires, that would pay for his investments in America and cut the deficit by $3 trillion.  That is something the President has been very clear about since day one. 

Q    One more, if I could, on China and the tariffs that are coming.  So, in July of 2019, then-candidate Biden said the tariffs on China are abusive policy.  Has the President changed his mind and now believes tariffs work?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, I’m not — I’m not — I’m going to be really mindful.  I’m going to — going to let — in due — in due order, you’ll — you’ll hear directly from the President, directly from us.  So, don’t want to get ahead of that. 

Jake said it really well when he was here: We have always had concerns on China’s unfair trade policies.  We’ve been very clear about that.  And the last administration, when they did the trade deal with China, what it did is it failed to increase Ameri- — American exports or boost manufacturing. 

That is not something the President wants to see.  He has been doing the opposite: making sure that American manufacturing is created here — right here in America.  And so, that is something that he has been very focused.  He says he wants to protect American workers, protect businesses — American business.  That’s what the President wants to do. 

He spoke about this when he was in Pittsburgh not too long ago, talking about making sure that it — we see fair business practices as it relates to American workers and American businesses.  So, don’t want to get ahead of that.  But we’ve been very, very clear on how we move forward on — on these types of practices — trade practices — and what we want to see.  And that is the framework, as Jake Sullivan said here moments ago, that we move forward with.

Q    So, he now believes tariffs work?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just going to be really mindful, not get ahead of what we’re — what we’re about to announce soon.  And what we have been really, really car- — clear about is protecting workers, protecting businesses, and we have called out China’s unfair trade policies.  And so, we’re going to continue to do that. 

Go ahead, Phil, in the back. 

Q    Thank you.  There’s new reporting in The Wall Street Journal that found that the FD- — FDIC Director Martin Gruenberg disrespected, disparaged, and treated unfairly officials there and that he was known to be someone who could not control his temper.  Obviously, President Biden said early on in his administration that he would fire on the spot anyone who bullied or unfairly bul- — belittled a coworker.  So, has the President seen those reports?  And if those reports prove to be accurate, will he take action?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have any personnel announcements to make at this time.  The FDIC Administrator — Chairman, to be exact, made — apologized and spoke to this.  And so, certainly, I would — I would send you there.  The FDIC is an independent agency, so would refer you to them as to anything else coming out from the FDIC on this particular matter. 

But I just don’t have any policy — personnel announcement to make at this time. 

Q    Thank you, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Selina.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  I know you don’t want to get into the announcement.  Can — but can you just more broadly talk about the role that tariffs play here in trying to balance protecting American workers versus consumers?  Because tariffs are often a tax to consumers.  So, how can you ensure Americans that with more tariffs, it doesn’t come with higher costs?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, going to let the announcement speak for itself, but what I can say about what China has played — has played here in — they’ve played by a different set of rules.  And this is what we know to be — to be clear.  And it has been unfair and anticompetitive economic practices. 

For example, forcing technology transfers and stealing intellectual property; distorting market for- — forces with un- — un- — unrivaled subsidies, barriers, and regulations; flooding markets with artificially cheap products to wipe out the competition. 

And that’s what we have seen from China with their unfair trade policies.  We have done the opposite here.  And what we have tried to do is invest in our Invest in America agenda — is 3- — $860 billion invested by the private sector in manufacturing and clean energy; nearly 800,000 manufacturing jobs created right here in the U.S. 

So, you see the President is investing — investment in America.   This is what his agenda has been all about.  And I –as I stated moments ago, the Trump administration, when they went forward with their trade deal, it — what it did is it showed that — that deal with China, it failed to increase American export and boost manufacturing.  We have tried to change that, reverse that. 

And so, I want to be mindful.  I’m not going to get into an upcoming potential announcement.  And so, going to be really mindful there.  But we are all about — and this President has been very clear — protecting American workers, protecting American businesses.  And we’re going to continue to do that under this administration. 

Q    And can you just talk about the President’s preparations for the upcoming commencement speech at Morehouse?   And does he plan to address the concerns of some students and faculty who have conflicting views about the President being there?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, a couple of things there. 

The President is going to continue to work on his speech with his senior advisors.  That’s what he’s going to do all week.  He sees this moment in — as a very pivotal moment, an important moment to a lot of these young graduates.

Let’s not forget, some of these — some of these graduates missed out on their graduation from high school because of the pandemic.  And this is going to be a celebration for them — an opportunity to have a commencement, to have a graduation that they sadly missed out on. 

So, the President has done these type of commencements.  He did two of them last year.  He’s done them throughout his vice — as a vice president, as a senator.  He knows how important it is not just to the graduates but the families, the people who love them. 

And so, he will — you’ll see themes, obviously, in his commencement speech.  He will give an uplifting — uplifting remarks on what’s to come and what they can look forward to, but also acknowledging, you know, what’s ahead, the difficulties that are ahead. 

And, look, as you started your question to me about what — how people are feeling, we’ve been very clear about that too.  We understand how deeply personal this moment is for many Americans across the country.  We’ve been very clear about that.  We understand that. 

That’s why we’ve had conversations with members of the community that’s affected by this.  We’ve had conversation with the Mus- — Muslim Americans, Palestinian Americans, Arab Americans.  The President has; White House officials here have.  They’ve traveled to — to states across the country to have those very important conversations.  And we’ll continue to do that. 

But also, this moment, the commencement speech, is such a celebratory moment.  And we believe it’s important.  It’s important f- — in this instance, Morehouse is going to hear directly from the President of the United States.  And I think that’s — that’s a memorable moment as well. 

AIDE:  Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Go ahead, Nancy.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Where do deliberations stand on this potential White House plan to allow a certain number of Palestinian refugees into the U.S.?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I don’t have any updates for you.  I know I’ve been asked this question multiple times about conversations happening here.  Don’t have anything to share. 

What I will say is — and I’ve said this many times before in the beginning of — of what happened — occurred on October 7th.  We actu- — we put in a plan.  The — there were about 1,800 Palestinian Americans that were in — in Gaza, and we did everything that we can to get them out if they choose to — if they — if that’s something that they wanted to do.  And certainly, we were able to do that.

As it relates to a refugee program or anything in that nature, I don’t have any announcement to make.  And — and I’ll just leave it there, because I want to be really mindful about that —

Q    Does —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — about getting ahead of that.

Q    Does the fact that a lot of Democratic senators were sort of lukewarm on the idea make it less likely that something like that will happen?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I — I wouldn’t say that.  I wouldn’t — I wouldn’t say that — confirm that either way.  What I will say is we’re — we don’t have any announcement to make at this time.  And so, obviously, we’re going to look at everything.

Go ahead.

Q    So, the U.S. has withheld bomb shipments to Israel.  And on Friday, the State Department sent a report to Congress.  So, did the report further support the administration’s stance?  Or are they having second thoughts about it?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Say — say that one more time.

Q    So, the U.S. has withheld bomb shipments to Israel. 

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah, just one shipment: 2,000 bombs.  Yeah. 

Q    Right.  And so, we had the St- —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  2,000-pound bombs.

Q    Right.  So, we had —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  And that — that is connected to what we have said and we have made very clear about our — our public and — and — made this publicly and privately — our concerns about a major mil- — major military operations into Rafah. 

And so, we have been very clear about that — because of the more than 1 — 1.4 million Palestinians who are there, who are — they are seeking refuge.  And so, we’ve been very clear about that. 

So, we have paused one — one shipment, and the — that’s what the President spoke to last week.  That’s what Jake spoke to just moments ago.

Q    Right.  So, the report — does it sort of further strengthen what President is — what the President is doing?  Or is it giving him pause?  Wh- — what did he think of the report that the State Department sent to the Congress?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, I think Jake spoke to that.  And he talked about the findings of the report, how it wouldn’t change our policies.  That’s number one.  And — and this is an ongoing, transparent process.  I don’t have anything else to add beyond that. 

Look, when you think about the pause on these 2,000-pound bombs, the reason why we paused it is because we want to be mindful — right? — we want to — we understand that there is in — in Rafah, there are dense — dense areas that have Palestinians who are seeking refuge.  And we want to make sure those civilian lives — those innocent civilian lives are protected. 

That’s why we’re — we’ve made very clear — very clear about our concerns about a major military operations there.  That is the reason.  That is the focus: understanding that fact.  And that is a fact.

And so, we’re going to continue to have those conversations.  You heard Jake talk about in — in upcoming days having an — an in-person conversation with his counterparts, continuing — continuing these — these group meetings that they’ve been having with — that NSC has been having with — with the ID- — IDF, the Israeli government.  And so, that’s going to continue.

We’re going to — and we’re going to continue to be really clear about our concerns, as we’ve been publicly as also privately. 

And so, those conversations continue.  And that’s why the President has been very clear.  There are 1.4 million civilians — innocent civilians that are in Rafah right now.  And we want to be really careful and mindful.  We want to see a plan that speaks to how are we going to — how is Israel going to make sure that those lives are protected. 

It is a pause of one shipment.  And that shipment is related to what we believe is — could be potentially, you know, an issue here — in — in Rafah.  Being very, very clear about that.

AIDE:  Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay.  Go ahead.

Q    Thanks, Karine.  Some recent polls — and I know you’ve said the President doesn’t govern looking at polls, but some have shown his popularity eroding amongst young people and also nonwhites.  And it’s not only related to Israel.  Is he aware of that?  Is he going to try to refocus his messaging or tweak it to speak directly to those groups that have felt left behind?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, and I — I — look, you know, going to be mindful about this upcoming election.  Not going to comment about that, the 20- — 2024 election or how these polls will affect the 2024 election.  Going to be super mindful.

But more broadly, you know, we believe that young Americans support — support the President’s agenda more broadly — right? — in overwhelming way.  And the President has stood on many — has stood with young Americans on many of the issues that they care about, because you said beyond — beyond what’s happening in the Middle East.

And so, when it comes to climate change — right? — that’s something that he’s been very clear about and has been the most progressive president on that particular issue.  And he’s going to continue to do that.

We understand, as well, that while the economy is turning around — and you’ve heard me talk at the top about the 15 million j- — million jobs created and what we’ve been able to do to turn around the economy — we understand that prices are too high, and young people, in particular, are feeling that.  And so, we’re going to continue to work on those issues.  We’re going to continue to do everything that we can to lower costs. 

I talked about the situation in the Middle East and how young Americans are feeling about what they’re seeing in Gaza, and we understand how painful it is — this moment is for them.  That’s why we’ve been working so hard to try to get a deal to — that would lead us to a ceasefire, get hostages home, and make sure that we get that humanitarian aid.  Let’s not forget that the U.S. has led the effort in getting humanitarian assistance into Gaza. 

And so — so, going to be super — kind of super — super mindful about the particular polling questions.  But we do believe that, you know, we want to make sure that we have an economy that works for young people.  We want to make sure that we listen to young people and hear them out.  We want to make sure that we continue to work on some of the issues that the President has talked about, whether it’s student debt relief — this is something that the President — it’s not going to stop him from doing the work that he has been very clear about wanting to deliver for the American people, including — including young Americans.  So —

Q    On his messaging to minorities?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well — and what do you mean spec- — like, what do you mean spec- — like, specifically about that?

Q    Hispanic voters —


Q    — or —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well, I’m not going to speak to Hispanic voters or voters —

Q    (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  — more — more specifically. 

But if you look at what the President has been able to accomplish for different communities, we have seen an economy that he has created — right? — that he’s wanted to create.  That is not a trickle-down economy.  That — that is very much from the bottom up, middle out. 

And you’ve seen unemployment go down for the Hispanic community.  You’ve seen wealth — when we talk about wealth gap: closing the wealth — wealth gl- — gap and making sure that we’re creating jobs for Latino and Hispanic communities, more specifically.  I think we’ve created more than 4 million jobs in this administration for that particular community. 

We’ve seen that as well for the Black community, the African American community. 

We’ve been very consistent.  You heard me lay out what we’ve been able to do for Asian Americans with this — with the President’s economic policy.  So, we are very, very committed to making sure that communities that are normally seen to be left behind are not left behind as it relates to the President’s economic policy. 

You see that when he fights Big Pharma.  When he’s fighting Big Pharma and lowering costs, that helps communities that you’re asking me about.  When we’re talking about junk fees, that helps communities that you’re asking me about. 

And so, when we’re talking about expanding ACA — we expanded that for DREAMers, for DACA recipients.  That’s because — and you heard this president say this last week — because he understands that DACA recipients — many of them are part of our military, right?  They’re part of what makes this country great. 

And so, those are actions that the President is going to continue to take and continue to have those conversations and certainly message that. 

I have to go.  Thanks, everybody.  I’ll see you tomorrow. 

I’ll be back tomorrow, guys.  Thanks, everyone.

Q    Thank you.

May 13 2024 Washington DC
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room White House

Sources: Midtown Tribune news WH.gov

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