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Thune: Senate Republicans Stand With Israel

“It is clear to me at least that our focus should be on supporting our ally Israel and working for a future where both Israelis and Palestinians can live free from terror like Hamas’s.”

March 20, 2024

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the importance of standing with Israel, the United States’ strongest ally in the Middle East. Thune noted that Senate Republicans are committed to supporting Israel in its fight against Hamas terrorists, while Democrat leaders opt for inserting themselves into Israeli electoral politics.

Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):

“Mr. President, we have heard some concerning statements on Israel in recent days from leading Democrats.

“Last Thursday, the Democrat leader came to the floor to deliver a speech in which he took the extraordinary step of calling for regime change in Israel.

“Yes, the Democrat leader of the U.S. Senate – who has in the past fiercely decried the prospect of foreign interference in U.S. elections – decided to insert himself into the internal electoral politics of a sovereign nation – and close U.S. ally.

“It was an incredibly inappropriate moment.

“And, as I said, it wasn’t the only troubling statement lately from a Democrat leader.

“The president has also recently inserted himself into Israeli decision-making by criticizing Israel’s war plan and saying it would be a ‘red line’ for Israel to go after Hamas strongholds in Rafah, on the southern border of Gaza – in effect telling Israel that Hamas should be allowed to continue to hold this region.

“Mr. President, both the president and the Democrat leader are entitled to their personal strategic opinions and their personal opinions on Israel’s leadership.

“What they are not entitled to is to attempt to dictate the election process or the strategic planning of a sovereign nation.

“There would be justifiable outrage if one of our allies attempted to dictate to our country when we should hold elections, and whom we should choose to lead us.

“And it is equally offensive for U.S. leaders to attempt to dictate war planning or election outcomes to one of our allies.

“Mr. President, I also have to wonder where the similar statements are on, for example, Iran.

“Iran has been fomenting terror across the Middle East for decades.

“Hezbollah. The Houthis. Shia militias in Iraq and Syria. Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

“And, of course, Hamas.

“Hamas gets approximately 90 percent of its military budget from Iran.

“And there’s reason to wonder whether Hamas would even have had the capability to carry out its October 7 attack without its history of support from Iran.

“There is certainly reason to wonder what the Middle East would look like today if Iran hadn’t spent decades funding and arming terrorist organizations.

“And yet, Mr. President, in his entire State of the Union address, the president mentioned Iran only once.

“And the same goes for last week’s speech from the Democrat leader.

“Where are the red lines for Iran?

“The calls for regime change?

“For that matter, where are the red lines for Hamas?

“Because let’s remember, that’s how we ended up here.

“Israel didn’t attack Hamas.

“Hamas attacked Israel.

“President Biden himself has noted that October 7’s brutal attack against Israeli civilians was the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust.

“More than 1,100 individuals were killed, and more than 240 hostages were taken.

“And 130 of those hostages still – still – remain in Gaza, including five American citizens.

“This was not a war of Israel’s making; the current war is the responsibility of Hamas.

“And Hamas has pulled its own citizens into the war zone.

“It has woven its terrorist infrastructure all through Gaza so that its fighters can easily slip into – and outright hide behind – the civilian population.

“And the Israeli military has continued to discover Hamas tunnels networked beneath schools, hospitals, and the United Nation’s headquarters in Gaza — UNRWA.

“The lives of its own citizens seem to mean as little to Hamas as do the lives of Israelis.

“Mr. President, the world has seen the evil of Hamas and its indifference to life.

“And that is precisely why Israel must succeed in removing the threat of Hamas from its borders.

“When Democrats do things like set red lines around an offensive operation into Rafah, they are supporting the conditions that will perpetuate this terror.

“No other nation would accept this threat just miles over its border.

“And we must not ask our longstanding ally, Israel, to make such a dangerous exception.

“And I hope and pray that Israel will succeed in permanently disabling Hamas and paving the way to a more peaceful future for Israelis and for Palestinians.

“Mr. President, in an age in which the Democrat Party is increasingly surrendering to its most extreme left wing, perhaps the president and the Democrat leader’s comments should not have been unexpected.

“But expected or not, they were inappropriate and troubling.

“There’s an old adage that when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

“And yet Democrats are out with a letter this morning that sets forth a new laundry list of conditions for Israel to meet.

“Mr. President, our focus should be on supporting our ally Israel and working for a future where both Israelis and Palestinians can live free from terror like Hamas’s.

“And that requires clear-eyed focus on the task at hand of helping our ally defeat these terrorists, bring the hostages home, and restore peace.

“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”