Trip talk

Israeli officials stress urgent need for congressional aid package, Gottheimer says

The Intelligence Committee member met with senior Israeli leaders during a visit to the Jewish state this week

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) leaves a classified, closed-door briefing about Hamas' attack on Israel in the Capitol Visitors Center Auditorium on October 11, 2023 in Washington, D.C.

Following a visit to Israel this week, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) said that Israeli officials stressed the need for additional congressionally approved aid, an issue that lawmakers have postponed until after the holidays.

Gottheimer’s trip was conducted under the auspices of the House Intelligence Committee, of which he is a member. Efforts to pass additional Israel aid — tied to security assistance for Ukraine, Taiwan and the southern border with Mexico — have been hamstrung in the Senate for weeks due to Republican demands for more sweeping changes to U.S. immigration policy. Senators left Washington earlier this week without a finalized plan for the aid package and no clear timeline for its passage.

Gottheimer said during a call with reporters on Thursday that Israeli officials “stressed the critical importance of getting the package done… One thing they stressed is that we need to get this done as urgently as possible.”

At the same time, he said, Israeli officials reported that cooperation with the administration, which has some authorities to transfer assistance without additional congressional legislation, remains strong.

The Problem Solvers Caucus co-chair said that the bipartisan centrist group has also been working with some Senate colleagues on the immigration issue.

Gottheimer met during his visit with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer, Israeli and U.S. intelligence officials, the family members of hostages still held in Gaza and members of the United Hatzalah emergency services organization, whose first responders provided medical services in the hours following the attack.

The New Jersey congressman, who is among Israel’s most stalwart Democratic supporters in Congress, said he emphasized in his meetings the need to provide additional humanitarian aid to the Palestinians and to avoid civilian casualties. He said he had also raised the importance of planning now for Gaza’s post-war future.

“There must be serious discussions about the role of other nations, Arab nations in the region,  in maintaining security in Gaza,” he said. “Who will be involved in this post war effort is something that was discussed.”

Gottheimer said that Qatar’s role in helping to facilitate the return of hostages was also a topic of conversation.

“They, I believe, have the power and responsibility to help get more hostages freed and should be acting faster and doing everything they can,” he said. “It’s incumbent upon them and expected [of] them to do everything they can, in their conversations with Hamas, in those relationships, to get the hostages home as quickly as possible.”

He said his meetings touched on China and Russia’s roles in supporting Iran, and Iran’s support for terrorism, including both Hamas and the increasingly aggressive Houthis. 

Gottheimer, one of just a few Democrats openly calling for the Houthis to be designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, said that he has not heard from the administration about its plans, but that it’s an ongoing topic of discussion in the Intelligence Committee.

“The Houthis’ continued actions, including firing missiles and continuing to attempt to board ships in the region — I think it just reinforces the need to designate them,” Gottheimer said.

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