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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Richard Luscombe

US senators to reportedly visit Middle East to show support for Israel

Lindsey Graham at the Capitol on Wednesday.
Senator Lindsey Graham at the Capitol on Wednesday. Photograph: Nathan Howard/AP

A bipartisan congressional delegation will visit the Middle East on Friday in a high-profile gesture of support for Israel following the Hamas attacks, it was reported on Thursday.

Among the group’s most prominent members is the Republican senator Lindsey Graham, who has prompted outrage in some quarters with his aggressive criticism of Hamas combined with a seeming lack of regard for Palestinian civilian lives, saying he wants to see Gaza flattened.

More moderate Democrats will also be on the trip to Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt leaving on Thursday night, Punchbowl’s senior congressional reporter, Andrew Desiderio, said in a tweet, including Cory Booker of New Jersey.

Booker has called on the Biden administration to lead the international community in contributing to a United Nations emergency appeal of almost $300m to provide humanitarian relief for Palestinians trapped in Gaza.

Others named in the preliminary list are the Democrat senators Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and the Republican John Thune of South Dakota.

Thune, a Republican Senate whip, is among those who have resisted Joe Biden’s nomination of the former US treasury secretary Jack Lew as ambassador to Israel.

The trip would mark the second bipartisan visit to Israel since the conflict between Israel and Hamas began on 7 October after Hamas launched murderous attacks out of the Gaza Strip on people in southern Israel. Last weekend Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate majority leader, traveled to meet with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and members of his newly formed unity government to pledge US support for the country “on all fronts”.

Since returning to the US, Schumer has promised the chamber will move quickly to advance financial aid for Israel and approve Lew’s nomination, though funding could be held up by the current paralysis in the speaker-less House of Representatives.

“That means military assistance, intelligence assistance, diplomatic assistance and humanitarian assistance to care for innocent civilians,” Schumer said.

“We want to move this package quickly. The Senate must go first. I know that the House is in disarray, but we cannot wait for them.”

The trip has yet to be officially confirmed, although Blumenthal announced on X, formerly Twitter, on Wednesday that he planned to join Graham on a visit to Israel “in the coming days”.

Its purpose, he said, was to “reaffirm our commitment to Israel, to share our grief at the Israeli & Palestinian lives lost & to support continued diplomatic efforts to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia”.

A report published on Thursday on said the delegation would consist of eight politicians, including the the freshman Republican senator Katie Britt.

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