At Knesset, GOP lawmaker warns Oct. 7 ‘could happen in US’ if Israel not victorious

Addressing MKs, Elise Stefanik slams Biden’s decision to pause arms shipment over Rafah op, praises Trump’s ‘historic support’ for Israel

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana and New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik in the Knesset on May 19, 2024. (Noam Moskowitz, Office of the Knesset Spokesperson)
Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana and New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik in the Knesset on May 19, 2024. (Noam Moskowitz, Office of the Knesset Spokesperson)

Slamming US President Joe Biden’s decision to pause a shipment of thousands of bombs, Representative Elise Stefanik on Sunday warned that unless Israel is supplied with the weapons necessary to “achieve total victory,” America could face its own October 7.

Addressing lawmakers in Jerusalem during a session of the Knesset Caucus for Jewish and pro-Israel Students on Campuses around the World, the senior House Republican from New York declared that “there is no excuse for an American president to block aid to Israel — aid that was duly passed by the Congress — or to ease sanctions on Iran, paying a $6 billion ransom to the world’s leading state sponsor of terror, or to dither and hide while our friends fight for their lives.”

Seeking to discourage Israel from launching its planned offensive against Hamas in the crowded southern Gaza city of Rafah, the Biden administration this month put on hold a weapons shipment of 3,500 bombs — some as large as 2,000 pounds — over concerns about their use in populated areas. Biden later threatened to withhold further arms if Israel moves into “population centers” in Rafah.

The move was denounced by many American supporters of Israel, with outraged Republicans — who accused Biden of abandoning the closest US ally in the Middle East — pushing a bill through the Republican-controlled House to force the weapons transfer that also received some Democratic votes.

The White House has said Biden would veto the bill if it passes Congress, and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said he doesn’t plan to allow a vote on it. Despite the pause, billions of dollars worth of US weaponry remain in the pipeline for Israel.

Commenting on the recently passed multi-billion dollar aid package for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan, Stefanik said that she was “proud to have sponsored or backed every measure to aid Israel that has come before the United States Congress.”

Defending American values means “crushing antisemitism at home and supplying the State of Israel with what it needs, when it needs it, without conditions to achieve total victory in the face of evil,” she maintained.

“When they chose rape, the torture of civilians, and the mutilation of infants as weapons of terrorism, they left no alternative to this just war,” Stefanik argued.

“When the genocidal zealots running Iran lobbed missiles at this very city, they removed any doubt as to their hideous intentions. Chants of ‘Death to America’ are not hollow slogans. They are a promise that what happened here on October seventh could happen in the United States unless Hamas and its jihadist accomplices are eliminated.”

In contrast with her criticism of Biden, Stefanik, one of the highest-ranking Republicans in the House, praised former US president Donald Trump, whom she lauded for his “historic support for Israeli independence and security.”

Stefanik expressed admiration for Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, his involvement in the Abraham Accords and the creation of “crucial coordination with British and Arab partners that helped defend against the Iranian [missile] attack” against Israel last month. She also hailed his decision to cease funding the UN’s Palestinian aid agency UNRWA, which has been embroiled in controversy in the wake of the October 7 onslaught over some of its staffers’ alleged participation that day and other terror links.

“When the enemy is inside the gates of the United Nations, America must be the one to call it by its name and destroy it. President Trump understood this, and B’ezrat Hashem, we will return to that strategy soon,” she said, using a Hebrew phrase meaning “God willing.”

The congresswoman also contrasted the young Israelis who flew home from around the world to report for reserve duty following the October 7 massacre with “the pro-Hamas apologists on so-called elite campuses across America,” whom she accused of “calling for intifada and genocide.”

Stefanik, who has been named as a potential running mate for current candidate Trump, rose to prominence in December during a congressional hearing in which she asked the presidents of Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania if “calling for the genocide of Jews” is against the universities’ codes of conduct. All three said the answer depended on the context.

That hearing “set off an earthquake,” Stefanik said on Wednesday, adding that “we have put colleges and universities on notice and expanded this investigation to ensure every Jewish and Israeli student, faculty member, and staff member is protected on campus,” including from what she said was the “antisemitism inherent in woke DEI.”

US Rep. Elise Stefanik speaks at a Knesset caucus meeting on May 19, 2024 (Sam Sokol/Times of Israel)

Diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, is shorthand for a framework that says employers and institutions should be welcoming to diverse applicants, especially people of color, women and the LGBTQ community, though critics have said it can lead to discrimination against Jews and others.

“We must not let the extremism in so-called elite corners conceal the deep abiding love for Israel among the American people,” Stefanik said.

Despite Stefanik’s criticism of campus antisemitism, she herself has been accused of promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories in the past. In 2022, after a mass shooting in Buffalo inspired by the “great replacement” theory, the Anti-Defamation League criticized Stefanik as one of its propagators, saying her campaign’s posts “strategically play on extremist rhetoric to stoke growing fears that white Americans are under attack and minorities seek to eject them.”

She has also been criticized by some for not denouncing Trump after he dined with Kanye West, the rapper who embraced antisemitism, and Nick Fuentes, a Holocaust denier.

Welcoming Stefanik, Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana described her as a brave leader who “spoke truth to power and brought justice to the academic ivory tower.”

MK Moshe Tur-Paz speaks during a Finance Committee meeting at the Knesset, February 23, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“That historic hearing proved to be a turning point for the soul of the world’s universities,” Ohana stated, declaring that “few contributed as much” as Stefanik to the battle against campus antisemitism and praising her for “exposed America’s foremost university presidents for their complicity in the toxicity engulfing their schools.”

Asked if he had any reservations regarding inviting Stefanik, caucus co-chair Moshe Tur-Paz (Yesh Atid) said that “our agenda is being bipartisan and working with both parties. I think the congresswoman has proved herself a great friend of Israel and we should give a warm hug and greeting to everyone who sticks with Israel.”

Tur-Paz’s fellow co-chair, Likud MK Dan Illouz, likewise dismissed criticism of Stefanik, telling The Times of Israel that “you just have to hear the things that she said today in a very clear and forceful way, about how she appreciates the Jewish community, [how] she’s definitely supportive of Israel… in order to understand where her heart is.”

Agencies and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: