Alaska’s U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan said Friday that he planned to travel to Israel with a bipartisan congressional delegation, as the country enters its third of week of fighting in Gaza.
Members of the delegation, which arrived in Saudi Arabia on Friday, include U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Katie Britt, R-Ala.; Ben Cardin, D-Md.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Chris Coons, D-Del.; Jack Reed, D-R.I.; and John Thune, R-S.D.
Sullivan said his top goal for the trip is “to show bipartisan Senate support for Israel and its right to defend itself and defeat and destroy Hamas.”
He said he also wanted to work with the United States’ Arab allies on providing “assistance to Palestinian civilians” and to send a message to Iran and its proxies “not to widen this war.”
“This history of the Middle East is really filled with examples of big positive things getting done that come out of really tragic conflict,” said Sullivan, alluding to efforts predating the war to reach a peace agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. A bloody Hamas attack on Israeli civilians on Oct. 7 upended negotiations between the countries.
That attack killed more than a thousand Israelis and led Israel to launch a retaliatory offensive in Gaza that has since killed more than 4,000 Palestinians, according to Palestinian officials.
Sullivan, who has repeatedly criticized President Joe Biden, commended the Democratic president for his “strong stance for Israel” while also calling on Biden to take a more hardline approach toward isolating Iran.
Both Sullivan and fellow Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski have voiced support for Israel since fighting began between the country and Hamas, which was designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department in 1997.
“These cold-blooded crimes that have been committed by Hamas terrorists are unimaginable and absolutely unforgivable, and our hearts are just heavy,” Murkowski said on the Senate floor earlier this week, calling for “unequivocal” support for Israel and opposition to Hamas.
“We must assure the world that we stand with Israel and against the brutal genocide that we see from these terrorists,” Murkowski said.
Sullivan spoke earlier this month at an event in Anchorage hosted by Jewish community leaders, where he said the U.S. must “fully support Israel’s right to defend itself, and to defeat and crush the Hamas terrorists who do not want peace.”
Democratic U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola said in a statement hours after Hamas launched their Oct. 7 attack in Israel that “this is a horrific day for the people of Israel and everyone who hopes for peace. I stand firmly with Israel and its right to defend itself against these appalling attacks on civilians.” Peltola has not commented publicly on the conflict since then.
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed a letter a week after the war began, along with 18 other Republican governors, saying the Biden administration’s initial response to the war “created dangerous confusion that has only further emboldened state-sponsors of terror and their henchmen to continue attacking Israel.”
Since that letter was written, Biden has traveled to Israel, after Secretary of State Antony Blinken also made a trip to the region. Hamas on Friday released two American hostages. Roughly 200 hostages are still held in Gaza, according to Israeli officials.
Biden has called for additional funding to be sent for both military aid to Israel and humanitarian assistance to Gaza. But Congress can’t vote on the request until House Republicans can agree on their leadership.
“Of course we want to make sure they get organized and elect a speaker soon,” said Sullivan. “It’s a very dangerous time right now and having both houses of Congress to focus on these issues is important.”