Like many veterans who served after September 11, 2001, I’ve long dreamed of lasting peace and cooperation in the Middle East.
That’s just one of the reasons why I recently led a bipartisan delegation of lawmakers to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, and Israel. We had planned this visit long before the heinous attacks by Iran-backed Hamas, with the goal of strengthening the Abraham Accords and our security relationships.
While we left meetings in the UAE and Saudi Arabia feeling optimistic about a growing desire for partnership, our hopes were rocked when we learned that Israel was under attack, once again.
As the situation continued to degrade, I made the decision that we were ultimately going to accomplish what we set out to achieve. Despite all attempts to stop us, I led our bipartisan delegation to Jordan in preparation for a cross-border drive into Israel.
It was clear that what we were about to walk into was chaotic and uncertain, and not for the faint of heart. But in unity, our bipartisan delegation pressed on, and on October 10, we arrived in Israel to ensure our ally clearly understood that America will always stand shoulder-to-shoulder with her.
We first met with Eli Cohen, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and received an update on the war. Here, we heard for the first time the true nature of the atrocities that the Hamas savages were conducting – rape, beheadings, dragging bloodied bodies into the streets – and among the dead were women, children, and American citizens.
The Israeli Foreign Minister made it very clear that the threat Hamas poses to civilization is no less than what the U.S. faced with ISIS in Iraq, where I served, and in Syria – and I couldn’t agree more.
We then spoke with the family of Chaim Peri, an 80-year-old peace activist and father of five who was kidnapped from his home during the invasion. We heard firsthand accounts of the inhumanity of the attack – the destruction of their home, the violence his family endured, and ultimately, that one of his sons was murdered defending the family.
Shaken but not deterred, the delegation carried on to Tel Aviv, where we met with Opposition Leader Lapid, the Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer, and ultimately, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
We heard increasingly graphic accounts of torture and mutilation of civilians as we witnessed a nation that was and is truly in an existential fight for survival against a psychopathic terrorist organization.
Israel will not be safe until Hamas is dismantled and deterrence against all others who seek the destruction of Israel is firmly re-established. And with over 30 Americans dead and more still being held hostage by Hamas, this moment demands clarity from our elected officials.
Now is not the time for weak-kneed leadership and ongoing appeasement of the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. As radicals chant “death to Israel,” they also scream “death to America.” We need our leaders here at home to understand that a war waged by Iran-backed proxies is a threat to our own national security.
For my part, as a combat veteran, co-chair of the Senate Abraham Accords Caucus, and member of the Armed Services Committee, I’ll continue fighting to enforce sanctions against Iran to the fullest extent of the law, pushing to secure the safe return of American hostages, and serving as the strongest voice possible for our greatest Middle Eastern ally.
Not only today but in the coming days and months ahead as Israel fights to secure their most basic human right – the right to life – the United States must stand resolute in our support.
May God bless the families who have lost a loved one, and may God bless Israel as she defends herself from Hamas’s brutal attacks.