11:19 P.M. CEST
THE PRESIDENT: Hey, guys.
Q Hi, sir.
Q It’s good to see you.
THE PRESIDENT: I wanted to bring you up to date. I just got off the phone with — with Pre- —
Q Hold on, sir. Hold on. Hold on.
THE PRESIDENT: — with President Sisi of Egypt.
When we took off, my goal was multifold, but basically to get humanitarian aid into Gaza and to get as many Americans out who wanted to get out — could get out as possible.
And so, we got a commitment, as you know, from the — from the Israelis, including their unanimous vote of their war cabinet and the Prime Minister.
And the second thing was that I wanted to make sure there was a vehicle, a mechanism, that this could happen quickly.
And so, I have been on the phone for the last — I don’t know. We’ve been on the ground a while. That’s why we haven’t taken off — with El-Sisi. I don’t think I was on that long. It was about probably half an hour. And both — my team here was with me.
And he agreed that what he would do is open the gate on — to do two things: one, let up to 20 trucks through to begin with.
Satterfield, my ambassador, is down there in — not down there — in Cairo now. He’s going to coordinate this. He has my authority to do what is needed to get it done.
They’re going to patch the road. They have to fill in potholes to get these trucks through. And that’s going to occur; they expect it’ll take about eight hours tomorrow. So, there may be nothing rolling through until — what’s today? I’m losing track of days. Thursday? Wednesday? Probably until Friday.
Q Is this the Rafah Crossing you’re talking about?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q Okay. So, Sisi agreed to open that up?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. For this purpose. For this purpose. Not to allow a lot of people out, but to open it up for this purpose.
Q For humanitarian assistance?
THE PRESIDENT: For the humanit- — for the trucks to be able to get through.
Q And is that just —
Q Twenty trucks.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, what I — you guys are such a pain in the neck. You know? (Laughter.)
Q Sorry, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: But here’s the deal: up to 20 trucks. This has been a very blunt negotiation I’ve had. And so, we want to get as many of the trucks out as possible. There’s, I guess, 150 or something there. Not all of them will go the first tranche. If there’s a second tranche — see how it goes.
The commitment is: If, in fact, they cross the border, the U.N. is going to be on the other side distributing this material — offloading it and then distributing it, which is going to take a little time to set up, probably.
But the — the point being that if the — if Hamas confiscates it or doesn’t let it get through or just confiscates it, then it’s going to end, because we’re not going to be sending any humanitarian aid to Hamas if they’re going to be confiscating it. That’s the commitment that I’ve made.
And so, the bottom line is that El-Sisi deserves some real credit because he was very accommodating and, quite frankly, as everyone I’ve spoken to thus far since this trip began.
And I — but the Admiral is going to stick here and (inaudible) answer any real hard questions. And I’m going to get the hell out of here before you start asking about the House of Representatives. (Laughter.) Okay?
Q Are you disappointed that you had to cancel the stop in Jordan?
THE PRESIDENT: No. (Laughs.) Disappointed? Look, I came to get something done. I got it done. If it — if I didn’t — if I did — wasn’t able to make it into the — into Israel, I got it done — I’d get it done. This is — as you guys know, this was a — let me choose my words here.
Not many people thought we could get this done, and not many people want to be associated with failure.
And there was, quite frankly, a — a lengthly [sic] — lengthy, hour or more discussion about whether to go. Because had we gone and this failed, then, you know, the United States failed, Biden’s presidency fails, et cetera, which would be a legitimate criticism.
And right now, I have a very good relationship with the Jordanian king. It’s close. I know him well, and — and I also spent time on the telephone in the past with the Palestinian Authority leadership. But they’re all in a tough spot —
Q That was today?
THE PRESIDENT: No, no, no. Just over the last 5 years — 10 years.
And — but they — we’re putting all of them in a tough situation if we didn’t get this done. And so, it had to be, in my view, we either — either took all the blame or — and not have put anybody else on the spot of being put on the spot — or get it done. And I thought it was worth taking the chance to get it done.
Q We were told you were going to ask —
Q So, you talked to Sisi for quite a — quite a long time to work this out. Was he reluctant to — to do this?
THE PRESIDENT: Not at all. He was completely cooperative.
THE PRESIDENT: I’ve had a decent relationship with him. He’s got — he’s got his own problems on other issues. He’s got — his entire border is — there’s wars going on on every side of his country. And so, he was — I’ve known him a while. He — he was, fair to say, very cooperative.
I mean, there was no — I thought I’d have to spend more time trying to convince him on the timing, but he was — he ste- — stepped up. And — as did Bibi and — and I was, as you — well, they probably told you, I was very blunt with the Israelis.
And — because, look, Israel has been badly victimized, but, you know, the truth is that if they have an opportunity to relieve suffering of people who are — have nowhere to go, they’re going to be — it’s what they should do. And if they don’t, they’ll be held accountable in ways that may be unfair, but that’s what we —
And my point to everyone is: Look, if you have an opportunity to alleviate the pain, you should do it. Period. And if you don’t, you’re going to lose credibility worldwide. And I think everyone understands that.
Q What about getting people out?
MR. KIRBY: Guys, we got to — we got to let the President get back —
THE PRESIDENT: The answer is: We’re going to get people out, but I’m not going to go into any detail with you now.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. We’ve got to wrap it up guys. We’ve got to wrap it up.
Q Anything more about the hospital, sir?
Q You said you were very blunt with the Israelis on the need to get humanitarian aid to Gaza — or what exactly?
THE PRESIDENT: On everything. (Laughs.) We — no, I was very blunt about the need to support getting humanitarian aid to Gaza — get it to Gaza and do it quickly. And —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right.
THE PRESIDENT: And that —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oops, sorry, sir. I almost stepped on you.
Q Any more about the hospital, sir?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, don’t. Okay?
Q May I ask you about — there’s a report in the Times of Israel that says “Biden officials have indicated to Israel in recent days that if Hezbollah initiates a war against Israel, the U.S. military will join the IDF in fighting the terrorist group.”
THE PRESIDENT: Not true.
Q Not true?
THE PRESIDENT: That was never said.
Q Do you think there’s a lesser chance now that Israel won’t go in and — into Gaza and that can be averted?
THE PRESIDENT: We had a long talk about that and what alternatives there are. Our military is talking with their military about what the alternatives are, but I’m not going to go into that either.
Q Did you find Bibi receptive to the humanitarian argument you made and —
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q Was — was there any pushback from him or you felt that —
THE PRESIDENT: No.
Q — you were able to get across that —
THE PRESIDENT: But we’ve had a number of discussions on this. It’s not — not new. Look, I don’t know what you picked up in Israel, but I got no pushback. Virtually none. Let me say it again: I got no pushback.
Q From the Israelis or from every —
THE PRESIDENT: From —
Q — all the partners here?
THE PRESIDENT: All the partners. Virtually none. And — and this is — look, it’s — at any rate.
But I’m hopeful we can get some Americans out as well of Gaza, and I’m — hopefully, we will continue to work towards getting other Americans out through other means as well.
Q Can you talk about the impact of meeting survivors and the first responders?
THE PRESIDENT: That’s all personal. Look, I — I spent an hour and a half, about, with 17 or 18 before — I spent with them and — I don’t know how to say this.
Virtually every mass shooting, every circumstance where a large number of people have been victimized and lost, I’ve spoken with them. I learned a long time ago, which you’ve all learned in your life as well, when someone is going through something that is beyond their comprehension that they never thought they’d have to go through, if they see someone who they think understands or maybe been through something — not the same, but similar — it gives them some sense of hope.
And I always get criticized sometimes by my staff because when I go to these events, I stay for three or four hours and answer all their questions. But it matters. It matters a lot.
And — and, look, I’m talking — some of you have gone through a hell of a lot more than I’ve gone through and a lot more than other people have gone through, and you understand.
So, it’s just — it’s just a — people are looking for just something to grab, something that gives them some sense — sense of hope. And that’s — if I can do a little bit of that, then it’s — you know, it’s worth doing. It was done for me, so —
Q You said that the hospital, sir —
Q Do you think it was necessary for you to come here to get this deal done? Was the in-person diplomacy aspect really important here?
THE PRESIDENT: What do you think? I’ll let you answer that.
Q You joked about the House. Do you have any view of Jim Jordan and his predicament at the moment?
THE PRESIDENT: Do I have any what?
Q Do you have — do you have a view of Jim Jordan’s current predicament, unable to secure the Speakership?
THE PRESIDENT: I ache for him.
No. No. (Laughter.) Zero. None. None.
Q Mr. President —
Q How about the hospital, sir? People all over the region are upset about the hospital and don’t necessarily believe you or the Israelis that they didn’t have anything to with it. Do you have a message to the people in the streets right now?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I can understand why, in this circumstance, they wouldn’t believe. I can understand that.
And — but I would not — you’ll notice I don’t say things like that unless I have faith in the source from which I’ve gotten it. Our Defense Department says it’s highly unlikely that it was the Israelis. It would have had a — a different footprint. And they’ve intercepted some — anyway.
They — and so, that’s why, if you notice, I didn’t say it at first. I didn’t — I wanted to make sure that I knew.
And, look — and I’m not suggesting that Hamas deliberately did it, either. It’s that old thing: You’ve got to learn how to shoot straight. You know, and — and it’s not the first time Hamas has launched something that didn’t function very well.
So, I — I don’t know all the detail, but I do know the people at the Defense Department, who I respect, and the intelligence community that I respect, and it’s highly improbable that Israel did that.
Q Mr. President, is — are the Israelis operating within the rules of war that you talked about last week being so important?
THE PRESIDENT: It’s been good talking to you all.
Q Thank you, sir.
MR. KIRBY: Thanks, everybody. Thanks, guys. Thank you.
Q Thank you, sir.
Q Appreciate it.
Q John, do we have more?
MR. KIRBY: Do you have more questions?
Q We need to file.
Q (Inaudible) I didn’t say that for the Times of Israel report, but it says, “Biden officials have indicated to Israel in recent days.” It doesn’t say “the President.” Do you know if —
MR. KIRBY: “Indicated” — I’m sorry, I didn’t hear the whole thing.
Q Have indicated that “if Hezbollah initiates a war against Israel, the U.S. military will join the IDF in fighting the terror group.”
MR. KIRBY: I think the President spoke pretty — pretty clearly on that, Jennifer. And as we’ve said before, there’s no intention to put U.S. boots on the ground in combat and — or obviously, we have national security interests. We’ll protect them if we need to.
Q But is it the point of the carriers to — to —
MR. KIRBY: The point of the carriers is to deter anybody from taking action.
Q And to deter them, don’t you have to therefore take action if they do?
MR. KIRBY: It’s a sufficient, credible military force, and if we — you know, if — if, as Commander-in-Chief, he decides that that force needs to be used to defend our interests, we’ll do that.
Q I think you saw the CENTCOM report on the drones that were shot down by the U.S. Is there — do we know if they were Iranian? I haven’t read the full report yet.
MR. KIRBY: As far as I know, you should definitely check with DOD on this, but I was just looking at email before coming back here with you guys. As far as I know, they have not attributed them to an entity.
Q When are these trucks going to cross into — is that all happening imminently or —
MR. KIRBY: I would say in coming days.
Q The roads needed to pa- — be patched up, he was talking about?
MR. KIRBY: The — the — as I understand it, the roads in through the Rafah gate, at least some of them, are damaged. I don’t know from what, but President Sisi said that — that he would need a little bit of time to make some repairs to the roads so that they are passable.
Q Apologies if this isn’t correct in how I’m understanding this, but is inspections of the loads that are coming in, is that something that has to be done?
MR. KIRBY: I don’t want to get into too much of the parameters and the specifics of — of the arrangement that the President worked out today.
The Israelis have made it clear that they don’t want any of this humanitarian assistance, this material to get into Hamas’s hands. We share that concern. And so, that’s — that’s part of the process here that’s been worked out.
But I — I don’t think I’m at liberty to get into more detail than that.
Q So, like —
Q Thank you.
Q — the news here is that Sisi agreed to open up Rafah gate to allow up to 20 trucks of humanitarian assistance into Gaza?
MR. KIRBY: Yes, that’s — that’s — that came out of the — that came out of the call. But not just the call, but it’s important that I stress that this — what the President was able to talk to you about certainly was consummated in this last conversation with President Sisi. But it really is the work of a lot of hard work over the last few days by Secretary Blinken in the region, calls that the President had earlier with President Sisi.
So, it was kind of building to this point.
Q Do you hope this will be the first of more? Or is that — is this, like, an opening here?
MR. KIRBY: Absolutely, yeah. As we’ve said before, Steve, it’s — it’s important to get the flow started, but it’s just as important — in fact, maybe even more important that there’s a sustainable process to this that it can — it can continue to flow.
11:36 P.M. CEST