Senate delegation to Israel, Saudi Arabia denounces Iranian role in Oct. 7 attacks
The bipartisan delegation first traveled to Saudi Arabia before continuing on to Israel
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who is leading a bipartisan delegation to Saudi Arabia and Israel, on Sunday blamed Iran for the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks in which more than 1,400 Israelis were killed and at least 220 taken hostage — a move, the South Carolina senator said, that was aimed at disrupting normalization efforts between Israel and Arab states.
“Iranians, through their proxy Hamas, unleashed holy hell on Israel to stop the march toward a better Middle East and a better world,” Graham said in Tel Aviv. “My goal is for them to fail.”
Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) told reporters that “it was the progress of the Abraham Accords and the imminent possibility of reconciliation that led to this specific attack at this time.”
“We cannot let Iran and its proxies win,” Coons added.
The delegation of 10 senators, which ran the ideological gamut from Sen. Katie Britt (R-AL) to Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), the latter of whom is the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, met with Israeli officials as well as families of hostages being held captive by Hamas in Gaza.
The group, Britt said, also reviewed bodycam footage taken by Hamas terrorists over the course of the day-long massacre.
“When we watched the videos and heard the stories today, the things that happened were unthinkable,” Britt said, her voice breaking. “The loss of life, kids having to watch their parents be murdered. Parents having to watch their children be burned to death. Women having to be raped, kids decapitated. It’s disgusting. It’s despicable. It is pure evil.”
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that Hamas’ “barbaric actions” were “crimes against humanity.”
“We are united and our hearts are hurting,” Cardin added. “Make no mistake about it. But we need to be strategic as to how we respond. At the end of the day, Hamas has to be eliminated.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) told reporters that he has family in Israel, including a cousin serving on the front lines with the Israeli Defense Forces.
The delegation was united in calling for Hamas’ ouster — and on Iran’s role as a top sponsor of the terror organization.
Blumenthal cautioned Iran against pushing Hezbollah into a military confrontation along Israel’s border with Lebanon. In a statement directed at Tehran, Blumenthal said, “If you’re thinking about giving the green light to Hezbollah, as you did to Hamas, if you’re thinking about giving the green light to the captors of those hostages to slaughter them, if you’re thinking about taking advantage in any way of the vulnerability of Israel as it struggles for its existence — Israel has no place to go.”
The Connecticut legislator accused Hamas of attempting to commit “genocide” against the Jewish people. “Hamas doesn’t just hate Jewish people like me,” he said, “Hamas wants to kill us.”
“Iran appears to be loosening its leash on its proxies,” Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK), said. “Look at what happened with the Houthis [in] just the last couple of days. We know for a fact that the Houthis wouldn’t act like that, firing missiles and rockets and drones, without Iran’s permission.”
“Be warned, Iran. Be warned,” Sullivan continued. “There are so many U.S. senators on both sides of the aisle who view the terrorist leadership in Iran as the biggest malign threat in this region, and in many ways the world, and we won’t stand for you widening the war.”
Iran’s efforts to sow regional instability were a focus of the delegation’s talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, a day prior. Reed said that in Saudi Arabia, the delegation had “a very productive session” with MBS and “urged him to join the international community to provide the resources that [are] necessary to allow Palestinians in Gaza to flee the control of Hamas and be sustained until Hamas is defeated.”
Describing the meeting as a “candid exchange,” Cardin said that discussions related to normalization were secondary following the Oct. 7 attacks. The “immediate needs,” he said, “are to deal with the crisis that Hamas has created.”
The delegation also included Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who was in Jerusalem on Oct. 7, John Thune (R-SD) and Susan Collins (R-ME).