Four U.S. lawmakers met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other government leaders in Israel on Tuesday, in what they described as a show of solidarity after Hamas’s surprise attacks over the weekend.
“We stand shoulder to shoulder so that we can go toe to toe with any terrorist going forward,” Representative Jimmy Panetta, Democrat of California, said during a news conference in Israel. “It is from our solidarity that we have our strength.”
The bipartisan delegation to Israel, comprising three representatives and a senator, arrived after lawmakers made stops elsewhere in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The trip was organized to promote the expansion of recent agreements to normalize relations between Israel and Arab countries. During stops in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the lawmakers also met with the opposition leader, Yair Lapid, and Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer, who previously served as Israel’s ambassador to the United States.
Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa and the leader of the trip, said in a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, that the group had also met with families affected by the attacks on Saturday and with American citizens in Israel.
Representatives Donald Norcross of New Jersey and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, both Democrats, were also part of the delegation that stopped in Israel.
Ms. Wasserman Schultz said in a post on X that the group had decided to go through with the Israel visit to “demonstrate our solidarity and support for the U.S.-Israel relationship, to make sure that we acted not just with our words but with our deeds.”
In an interview on CNN on Tuesday, Ms. Wasserman Schultz said that the delegation had been in Saudi Arabia when Hamas fighters first broke through barriers encircling the Gaza Strip on Saturday and attacked nearby Israeli towns, where they killed hundreds of civilians and took scores of hostages. She added that Saudi officials told her the events had not deterred them from pursuing normalization of relations with Israel.
The United States has been trying to broker a deal with Saudi Arabia and Israel, but the arrangement is likely to be contingent on matters like uranium enrichment, weapons sales and Palestinians’ territorial rights. Last week, days before Hamas’s assault, a group of Democratic senators indicated that the guarantees to Palestinians would need to be significant for them to support a treaty. After last weekend, Mr. Netanyahu’s government is less likely to meet those demands.
Since Hamas’s initial strikes, Israeli leaders have ordered a full siege of the Gaza Strip, curtailing supplies of food, fuel, water and electricity to the population of two million Palestinians, and ordered a mass mobilization of reservists in anticipation of a retaliatory offensive.