October 13, 2023

Senator Ricketts’ Weekly Column: I Stand With Israel

October 13, 2023

Last week, Islamic terrorists from Hamas pushed into Israel in a surprise attack from land, sea, and air. The stories, images, and videos of the attacks depict a level of savagery that shocks the conscience. Hamas murdered civilians and soldiers alike. Over 1,300 Israelis and at least 27 Americans are dead. The Prime Minister’s office said Israeli Defense Forces found babies and toddlers Hamas had beheaded. The terrorists massacred hundreds of young people attending a music festival. They barbarically raped women and paraded them bleeding from the assaults through the streets. They kidnapped innocent civilians, including American citizens. Hamas continues to use children and civilians in Gaza as human shields. It’s sick and evil.

Israel is surrounded by terrorists like Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north. These groups are motivated largely by a desire to annihilate the Jewish people and the State of Israel. They are supported and encouraged by Iran. After the Holocaust, the world said it would “Never Again” allow people to be slaughtered en masse for their faith. Now, we are called to put “Never Again” into action. We must stand with our ally Israel in its hour of need. We must punish our adversary Iran for funding the terrorism its proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah execute.

This cowardly attack by Hamas was encouraged by, supplied by, and likely conceived by the evil Iranian regime. At least one report indicates Iranian security officials had been helping Hamas plan and even gave the green light for the assault. This would not be a surprise. Iran has been very clear its goal is the total annihilation of Israel. The Iranian regime rejects Israel’s right to even exist. Its leaders chant “death to Israel” alongside “death to America.” The attack on Israel should show how serious these threats are. We can’t allow Iran to succeed. The United States must stand with Israel and punish the terror groups responsible for the atrocities we’ve witnessed.

First, the Biden administration must give Israel whatever tools it needs to destroy Hamas and bring the remaining hostages home. Israel is our closest ally. As the most reliable democracy in the Middle East, it is also an essential national security partner. 

Second, President Biden must reverse his appeasement-first policy toward Iran. The administration has provided at least $50 billion in sanctions relief to Iran. This policy was wrong the day it was implemented. It remains wrong now. My colleagues and I called on the president to freeze Iranian access to any and all of the funds remaining from these misadventures. We must also swiftly enforce Iranian oil sanctions that hit the Ayatollah where it hurts. We should use our position on the world stage to call on allies around the world to do the same. United Nations sanctions against Iran should be snapped back and any individual involved in the despicable use of innocent civilians as human shields should be held accountable. The Biden Treasury Department should threaten Chinese banks processing Iranian oil transactions that are providing tens of billions of dollars to the Iranian regime.

Biden also needs to step up and protect the American people. In September, reports indicated various Biden administration officials, including at least one within the Pentagon, had ties to Iranian influence operations. He needs to fire any known Iranian propagandists that work within his administration immediately. He must also secure our border. Under President Trump, encounters with individuals on the terror watchlist were in the single digits each year. Under President Biden this past year, Customs and Border Patrol encountered 154 individuals on the terror watch list. That doesn’t include the over 1.5 million known got-aways since the start of 2021.

The U.S. also needs to stop funding any program that subsidizes Hamas terrorists in Gaza. As a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, I intend to offer legislation next week to defund the Palestinian Authority and will fight to include it in the next government funding bill.

Finally, we need to continue negotiations for a peace and normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia. President Trump’s Abraham Accords with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates were a critical first step to peace for the region. A deal with Saudi Arabia would reduce Iranian influence and present a strong front to resist Iran. It is in America’s interest for it to be finalized as soon as possible.

With all this uncertainty in the world, remember my team and I are here to serve you. Contact us anytime by phone at 202-224-4224 or on my website at www.ricketts.senate.gov/contact.

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