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CEOs, senators strategize with hostage’s parents on Capitol Hill

The political and business leaders agreed to principles including supporting Israel’s right to defend itself and continuing the provision of resources Israel needs to do so

Albert Bourla/X

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla and Rachel Goldberg-Polin

A bipartisan group of Senate lawmakers met on Tuesday on Capitol Hill with U.S. business leaders and Rachel and Jon Goldberg-Polin, whose son, Hersh, is being held in Gaza — an unusual group that came together to strategize on potential paths forward amid stalled hostage-release negotiations.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a lead organizer of the meeting, said he was hopeful that the private sector leaders would apply pressure for stronger action against Iran and the International Criminal Court. He said that the executives who attended the meeting were largely interested in focusing on the hostages.

“I told that group to do two things: help us get an ICC sanctions bill across the table in the Senate, and let’s come up with an Iran sanctions effort that will hit the Ayatollah [Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader] in its pocketbook,” Graham said. “You’re never going to get the hostages out until Iran feels it in the pocketbook.”

Graham added that the subject of holding certain weapons transfers to Israel — a shipment of 2,000- and 500-pound bombs was delayed due to concerns they would be used in Rafah and the Biden administration threatened additional freezes — was also a topic of discussion.

Palantir CEO Alex Karp, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, Oracle CEO Safra Catz and Booz Allen Hamilton CEO Horacio Rozanski were in attendance, according to an individual familiar with the meeting. Lawmakers who attended included Graham and Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), John Cornyn (R-TX), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Katie Britt (R-AL).

“The meeting was frank, friendly and productive,” Blumenthal, the co-organizer, said.

Two sources familiar with the meeting said that the business leaders and lawmakers had agreed on a series of principles, including the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, support for Israel’s right to defend itself and providing the resources Israel needs to do so, the imperative of removing Hamas from power in Gaza and calling for the unconditional release of hostages.

“Corporate America is eerily silent,” Graham said. “We’ve got to up our game. … There’s a lot of economic power in that room. There’s a lot of ability to communicate in that room. So I’m asking corporate America and just citizens of all stripes to weigh in here, for us.”

An individual familiar with the meeting said that Karp was the driving force behind the convening. They said that the goal was to reiterate support for Israel, share what each group has been working on and to strategize potential steps to achieving a deal to release hostages. The Goldberg-Polins discussed necessary steps to help free the hostages.

The source said lawmakers had repeatedly emphasized the bipartisan nature of the support for Israel and that there were lawmakers from both sides of the aisle in attendance. Lawmakers and business leaders also highlighted the need and obligation for the U.S. to save its citizens being held hostage.

Booker described the meeting as a “very important conversation,” without elaborating further.

Graham, who had been working on bipartisan negotiations on an ICC sanctions bill, took a more aggressive tone on that effort than he had in previous weeks.

“If the ICC bill dies in the Senate, that is a defining moment in this effort,” he said. “Hamas will be celebrating, because it looks like we’re all talk.”

Graham also said he’d urged the business leaders to express support for cultural and societal changes in Saudi Arabia. 

Bourla said on social media that he is “in awe of [Rachel Goldberg-Polin] and her husband’s courage, and of the courage of the other families whose loved ones are being held hostage” and that he seeks to use his voice and platform “to advance their cause — and I will not stop using it until we #BringThemHomeNow.”

He said that goal had united the business leaders and senators in the room.

Several CEOs who were reportedly on the list for the event, including Elliott Management Corporation CEO Paul Singer, Citadel CEO Ken Griffin and Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, did not attend, according to a source familiar with the meeting. 

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