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Pa. Gov. Shapiro: Israel has ‘responsibility’ to ‘defeat Hamas’

Shapiro commended President Joe Biden for his handling of the war and his continued advocacy for a two-state solution

Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro greets people at the Commemoration Ceremony on the fifth anniversary of the Tree of Life synagogue attack on October 27, 2023, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Justin Merriman/Getty Images

Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro greets people at the Commemoration Ceremony on the fifth anniversary of the Tree of Life synagogue attack on October 27, 2023, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Since taking office earlier this year, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro has focused more on state policy than on foreign affairs. 

But since an antisemitic incident at a kosher Israeli restaurant in Philadelphia earlier this month brought the Israel-Hamas war to his home turf, the Democrat has become increasingly outspoken about the war in Gaza. Last week, the popular swing-state governor offered his most detailed comments yet on the war that was sparked by Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attacks in Israel. 

“Israel not only has a right to defend itself, I think Israel has a responsibility to combat Hamas head-on and to defeat Hamas,” Shapiro said at a Dec. 13 virtual event hosted by the Jewish Democratic Council of America. He began his remarks with a caveat: “I’m a state actor, not a federal actor. I don’t get a vote in the Congress in terms of what happens. I do have strong feelings.” 

His strong support for Israel’s stated mission of eradicating Hamas came as Biden administration officials have begun to make a concerted effort to pressure Israel to transition away from that goal, to a more constrained mission of going after Hamas’ senior leaders.  

“Hamas is a designated terrorist organization. It’s designated by the United States of America. We would not tolerate a similarly destructive force living on our border in the United States,” Shapiro said. “Think about it. If they were in Canada or Mexico, we would certainly never tolerate that. And so I think Israel not only has a right, they have a responsibility to rid the region of Hamas and the terror that Hamas can perpetrate.”

While pledging his support for Israel’s war effort and the Israeli people, Shapiro commended President Joe Biden for his handling of the war and his continued advocacy for a two-state solution — and for the pressure Biden has put on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has in recent days expressed sharp opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state. 

“I think President Biden has done a good job of trying to move in that direction,” said Shapiro. “I think he has made clear his concerns with the prime minister and the prime minister’s role in all of this, but I think he has also stated as I have many times, Israel has a right and a responsibility to not only defend itself but to defeat Hamas so that we can get to that next conversation about creating some greater stability in the region.”

Like the president, Shapiro called for the creation of a Palestinian state, but said “lasting coexistence” must be “predicated upon the Palestinians recognizing Israel’s right to exist, and the Palestinians making clear that their goal, as it’s stated in the charter right now of Hamas, to rid the region of Israel and of Jews.” 

Shapiro, though, went further than Biden in his approach to the Israeli government. He said Israel needs new leadership.

“It is my hope that Israel finds the will to replace its leadership because I think its leadership has been a real destructive part of what led to in part October 7,” said Shapiro. “I think we have a responsibility in the United States to help support the Israeli people once the battle is over in finding their footing again and having a stable leadership team in place to usher in a new era of peace and shared prosperity across the region.”

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