turnpike talk

Push to suspend or condition aid to Israel ‘emboldens Hamas,’ Gottheimer says

‘You don’t want to ever undermine peace and strengthen Hamas’ hand, where they feel that they have the upper hand,’ the New Jersey congressman told JI.

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.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), speaking to Jewish Insider on Monday, said that that he “strongly disagree[s]” with calls from fellow Democrats, including former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), to suspend or condition aid to Israel, warning that “it emboldens Hamas.”

The New Jersey congressman more broadly warned that lawmakers and the administration need to be cautious about rhetoric and actions that could signal to Hamas that the U.S. is not standing with Israel. 

“We have to be very careful — whether that’s as you saw with the U.N. resolution, or comments coming from the former speaker or others that actually encourages Hamas to walk away from the table,” he said. “You don’t want to ever undermine peace and strengthen Hamas’ hand, where they feel that they have the upper hand.”

“They have to be very careful with all comments to make sure we don’t don’t send signals to Hamas, that America doesn’t, A, stand by their key ally Israel and, B, never loses sight that on Oct. 7, Hamas, attacked, beheaded, burned, raped 1,200 people, killed 40 Americans and have five [Americans] hostage still today,” he continued, addressing lawmakers and U.S. officials generally.

In response to trends inside the Democratic caucus, the New Jersey congressman said that it’s important to “make sure that people don’t lose sight” of the events of Oct. 7 and the ongoing hostage situation, including that Americans remain hostage in Gaza — including one of his constituents — and to emphasize that Iran and its proxies continue to directly threaten and attack the U.S. and its forces.

“From my side, I’m going to continue to make sure people don’t forget about what’s going on, still, every day,” he said. “I think people have noticed that some people have stopped talking about that, and I think it’s critically important we not forget, especially when Americans, including my constituent [Edan Alexander are] being held hostage.”

Pressed on whether he thinks that the recent public comments by the administration risk encouraging the terrorist group, Gottheimer again warned that “all comments coming out of government officials” must be “very careful.” He said he did not think the administration had lost its focus on the hostages.

The congressman confirmed that in comments last week in which he said had “concerns with aspects of how Israel has executed aspects of this war,” he had been referring to the deaths of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers in a recent Israeli strike. Gottheimer told reporters last week that there should be accountability for that strike and praised the actions the Israeli government had taken in response, including dismissing and disciplining IDF officials.

The New Jersey congressman underscored that Hamas “could do the right thing” — release the hostages and cease its attacks on Israel.

He further said it’s important to increase humanitarian aid to the region, praising recent steps by the administration, but also that it cannot be overlooked that Hamas is using the Palestinians as human shields and has a long history of diverting aid, including during the current crisis.

The congressman, who visited Qatar and Egypt last week to meet with hostage negotiators and other officials, said that the aim of his visit was to “keep pressure on all the parties” and ensure that they, especially the Qataris, are “keeping pressure on Hamas” as well as to hear directly from negotiators about what they are and are not doing in the talks.

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