A deadly blast at a hospital in Gaza hours before President Joe Biden was set to leave the White House for the Middle East set off a furious scramble inside his administration as the president’s advisers tried to ascertain who was responsible as street protests against Israel started raging across the Arab world.
Hours later, the president and his national security team were not confident enough to draw a final determination absolving Israel of responsibility. But the initial information they evaluated strongly suggested that the Israelis were not behind the strike, serving as a green light for Biden’s motorcade to roll out to Joint Base Andrews late Tuesday afternoon, sources familiar with the internal deliberation told CNN.
Had the early evidence examined by the president’s team pointed in the other direction, the White House would have been more inclined to reconsider the trip. But advisers were sensitive about reversing course mere hours after the trip was announced by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and in the end, they never came close to canceling the trip altogether, sources said.
“He had no choice. Once he decided to do it, he wouldn’t cancel it,” one source said, describing what was understood to be an extraordinarily high bar for canceling Biden’s visit, which only included a stop i