Former President Donald Trump and several other Republican politicians have attempted to place responsibility on the Biden administration following the deadliest attack on Israel by Hamas militants in decades. They pointed to a $6 billion transfer to Iran, which administration officials insisted on Saturday had not yet been utilized.
On Saturday morning, the armed wing of Hamas launched thousands of rockets at Israel and reportedly dispatched fighters by both land and sea during a widespread operation they named “Al-Aqsa Flood,” in reference to the revered holy site in disputed East Jerusalem. Following the attack, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country was now “at war”.
In September, a sanctions waiver was approved by the U.S. allowing $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds to be transferred from South Korea to Qatar as part of a deal to free five detained Americans in Iran. Under the deal, signed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the frozen revenues from past Iranian oil sales were allowed to be sent to Qatar’s central bank, from where it can be disbursed only for the purchase of humanitarian goods for Iran.
Despite being a Sunni Muslim group, Hamas has maintained strong connections with Iran, a Shiite powerhouse, through its militant wing, which receives funding from Iran. The common bond between Hamas and Iran is their mutual hostility toward Israel.
Trump said during an appearance in Waterloo, Iowa: “The Hamas terrorist invasion of Israeli territory and the murder of Israeli soldiers today and the brutal murder of citizens is an act of savagery that must and will be crushed. It has to be dealt with very powerfully.”
Trump went further, saying that the hostage deal was a catalyst for the deadly attacks. “The war happened for two reasons,” he said. “The United States is giving—and gave to Iran—$6 billion over hostages.”
Numerous prominent Republicans accused the Biden administration of funding the “coffers” of the “war against Israel.”
In a 30-second clip posted on X, formerly Twitter, Florida Governor and GOP 2024 runner Ron DeSantis said Israel has the right and duty to “defend themselves against these Iranian-backed Hamas terrorists.” Without referring directly to the waiver funds, he claimed “Iran has helped fund this war against Israel and Joe Biden’s policies … have helped to fill their coffers. Israel is now paying the price for those policies.”
Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Colorado Republican, was more direct with her wording, posting on X: “Today, we are watching the culmination of Biden’s absolutely irresponsible policies with respect to Israel. He has directed funds to Palestine. UN funds have gone to Palestine. He JUST handed $6 BILLION to Iran. Now we see the results. Israel is our closest ally in the world. We need to stand by Israel in this deadly situation!”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia echoed Boebert’s statements, writing on X: “How much of the $6 billion dollars Joe Biden gave back to Iran funded this attack against Israel? President Trump would have NEVER given that money to Iran. May God protect Israel.”
“This is what happens when @POTUS projects weakness on the world stage,” former Vice President Mike Pence wrote on X, referring to the waiver money as a “$6 Billion ransom”.
But the Republican ire over the hostage deal funds was rejected by Democrats and the White House itself. New York congressman Daniel Goldman said on X: “For people who constantly complain about the “politicization” of mass shootings, it is the height of hypocrisy to now attempt to politicize Hamas’ brutal attacks. Unlike with mass shootings, however, the political accusations are wrong: No US $$—or any $$—has gone to Iran.”
According to the Associated Press, Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, said: “Not a single cent from these funds has been spent, and when it is spent, it can only be spent on things like food and medicine for the Iranian people. These funds have absolutely nothing to do with the horrific attacks today and this is not the time to spread disinformation.”
The undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the Treasury Department, Brian Nelson, also said that “these restricted funds cannot go to Iran” and that “any suggestion to the contrary is false and misleading,” according to a report by the AP.
Following the attacks, President Joe Biden affirmed the support of his administration for Israel, posting on X: “Let me say this as clearly as I can. This is not a moment for any party hostile to Israel to exploit these attacks to seek advantage. My Administration’s support for Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering.”
Newsweek has contacted the White House and Donald Trump via email for comment.