U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday defended Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip and its decision to intercept the pro-Palestinian flotilla bringing humanitarian aid to the coastal territory, though he did not go so far as to defend the Israel Navy raid that killed nine people two days earlier.
In an interview with Charlie Rose, Biden pointed out that Israel had given pro-Palestinian activists the option of unloading their cargo at the Ashdod port, and offered to bring it to the Gaza Strip on their behalf.
"They've said, 'Here you go. You're in the Mediterranean. This ship -- if you divert slightly north you can unload it and we'll get the stuff into Gaza,'", he said. "So what's the big deal here? What's the big deal of insisting it go straight to Gaza? Well, it's legitimate for Israel to say, 'I don't know what's on that ship. These guys are dropping 3,000 rockets on my people.
"Look, you can argue whether Israel should have dropped people onto that ship or not -- but the truth of the matter is, Israel has a right to know -- they're at war with Hamas -- has a right to know whether or not arms are being smuggled in."
During the interview, Biden also blamed Hamas for the crisis that has wracked the coastal territory and for the ongoing state of conflict with Israel.
"As we put pressure, and the world put pressure on Israel to let material go into Gaza to help those people who are suffering, the ordinary Palestinians there, what happened? Hamas would confiscate it, put it in a warehouse [and] sell it.
"So the problem is this would end tomorrow if Hamas agreed to form a government with the Palestinian Authority on the conditions the international community has set up," Biden told Rose.
U.S. Congress reacts to Gaza flotilla raid
In contrast to the barrage of condemnations all over the globe, many in the U.S. Congress expressed support for Israel.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed her regret for the loss of life and said the event "underscores the urgent need for negotiations designed to achieve an enduring and comprehensive regional peace."
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Israel "rightfully invoked its right to self defense."
"Hamas could end the blockade at any time by recognizing Israels right to exist, renouncing violence, and releasing Gilad Shalit," Hoyer continued.
Other members spoke about why there is a need for the blockade of Gaza in the first place.
The blockade exists "to deny Hamas the weaponry and raw materials it needs to continue its rocket attacks in Israel, killing innocent people," Republican whip Eric Cantor said.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now