ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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Running for his old seat, ex-NY Congressman visits Israel, calls for destroying Hamas

To have another pro-Israel Republican doesn’t help much, argues Tom Suozzi, whose opponent is ex-IDF paratrooper and mother of 7. ‘You need strong, outspoken pro-Israel Democrats’

Former Democratic Congressman Tom Suozzi (left) and Democratic Majority for Israel national co-chair Todd Richman (right) in Kfar Aza on December 22, 2023. (Courtesy Todd Richman)
Former Democratic Congressman Tom Suozzi (left) and Democratic Majority for Israel national co-chair Todd Richman (right) in Kfar Aza on December 22, 2023. (Courtesy Todd Richman)

On Thursday, just under two months ahead of a special election to replace disgraced former congressman George Santos as representative of New York’s 3rd congressional district, Democrat Tom Suozzi flew to Israel to express solidarity as part of a campaign increasingly focused on which candidate is more supportive of Jerusalem’s war against Hamas.

Suozzi is hoping to get his old job back after quitting the seat in an unsuccessful bid for governor last year, but first he has to defeat Republican contender Mazi Melesa Pilip, an Ethiopian-born Orthodox Jewish mother of seven who served as a paratrooper in the Israeli army before becoming a Nassau County legislator.

Pilip, 44, has taken a prominent role in campaigning against the spike in antisemitism in New York following the brutal October 7 onslaught in which Hamas-led terrorists killed 1,200 people in southern Israel and Israel’s subsequent war on Hamas in Gaza.

For his part, Suozzi has a history of speaking out on antisemitism and was one of the drivers behind a 2018 bill allowing for sanctions on terror groups that use civilians as human shields, and “both candidates have reflected the overwhelming bipartisan support for Israel’s fight to remove Hamas from Gaza,” an AIPAC spokesperson recently told the Politico website.

“I wanted to demonstrate my solidarity with Israel and with the Jewish people throughout the world through these difficult times,” Suozzi told The Times of Israel on Saturday evening, the final night of his trip.

Explaining that he’d “always been in the practice of trying to see firsthand what’s going on,” the former congressman said that he had met with the parents of captured IDF serviceman Omer Neutra, who comes from his district, and had toured the Gaza border community of Kfar Aza, where more than 60 people were murdered on October 7.

“It was awful,” he recalled.

He lauded the Biden administration’s approach to the conflict and acknowledged that while there will likely be a “long, drawn-out” war, “this is not about revenge, this is not about retribution; we have to destroy Hamas.”

Admitting that he “can’t imagine” what the parents of the hostages are going through, the father of three said that he “can’t shake the image from Kfar Aza.”

“This is a sophisticated, disciplined terror army with a stated goal of destroying Israel and killing Jews. And they’ve said that they will do it again. There is no remorse. There is no effort, not that there could be, to explain it,” he said.

Asked about international pressure for a ceasefire, Suozzi said that it was a “very laudable goal” but contended that the best way to reach a cessation of hostilities would be for Hamas to “release all the hostages and surrender.”

Pushed on how he could differentiate himself from Pilip on Israel, a campaign issue of significant importance in his heavily Jewish district, Suozzi argued that “to have another pro-Israel Republican doesn’t really accomplish much.”

Nassau County legislator Mazi Melesa Pilip arrives for a press conference on December 15, 2023, in Massapequa, New York, after New York Republicans announced Pilip’s nomination as their candidate to run in the February 13, 2024, special election for the House seat vacated by former representative George Santos (Republican of New York). (Adam Gray/Getty Images/AFP)

“What you need are more pro-Israel Democrats, and if you want support of Israel to remain bipartisan in the United States of of America — which I think everybody agrees is an important goal — you really need strong, outspoken pro-Israel Democrats,” he asserted.

“Tom and I have been friends for close to 30 years. He spoke to me about taking him to Israel in October after he declared his candidacy,” Todd Richman, national co-chair of Democratic Majority for Israel, who arranged the trip, told The Times of Israel. “He is a true Zionist.”

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