'If these hostages get slaughtered, I hold Iran accountable'

Visiting US senators: Hamas must be destroyed, war was opened to prevent Saudi peace

Lawmakers warn Tehran that Gaza war will reach its doorstep if Hezbollah attacks, look ahead to regional peace after Israeli victory

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

US Senator Lindsey Graham speaks at a press conference alongside nine other US senators at a hotel in Tel Aviv on October 22, 2023. (Screenshot)
US Senator Lindsey Graham speaks at a press conference alongside nine other US senators at a hotel in Tel Aviv on October 22, 2023. (Screenshot)

Leading a bipartisan US Senate delegation of five Republicans and five Democrats to Israel, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said in a press conference Sunday that “destroying Hamas is non-negotiable,” threatening to open a war front on Iran’s borders if it moves to broaden the current war in Gaza.

“What is winning? For the terrorist organization to be destroyed, for the people of Israel to have the sense of peace they’ve lost, for the Palestinian people to have hope they don’t have, and for the Arabs and Israelis to end a conflict that would make the world better,” said Graham in Tel Aviv.

The senators, who had originally planned to be in the region to promote Israeli-Saudi normalization, stressed that they have a positive vision for the region after the Palestinian terror group is destroyed.

“How does this end? Israel thrives, they survive, Hamas is destroyed, the Palestinian people have a better life.”

On October 7, Hamas launched its brutal mass assault on Israel, killing over 1,400 people, most of them civilians slaughtered in their homes or at a music festival near the Gaza border, and taking hostage over 200.

The US group met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman on Saturday and urged him to offer funds to sustain the Gazan people until Hamas is destroyed. They also met families of hostages taken by Hamas.

Large crowds of pro-Israel demonstrators gather in Trafalgar Square, London, October 22, 2023, demanding the release of all hostages abducted from Israel to Gaza by Hamas terrorists. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Graham said that he believes that Iran, through Hamas, tried to stop Israel-Saudi peace: “My goal is for them to fail.”

Delaware Democrat Chris Coons also said that the Abraham Accords and progress toward normalization were among Hamas’s reasons to attack now.

Graham added that 10 percent of the US Senate is currently in Israel “because we care… I come here because I love Israel. I do not hate Palestinians. I hate Hamas.”

Graham also had stark words of warning for Tehran: “We’re here today to tell Iran, we’re watching you. If this war grows, it’s coming to your backyard. There won’t be two fronts, there will be three.”

“If these innocent hostages get slaughtered, I hold you, Iran, accountable because you could stop it if you chose to. The idea this happened without Iranian involvement is laughable,” added Graham. “For Iran to fail, the Middle East needs to come together, marching toward the light, and away from the darkness.”

Speaking after Graham, Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin concurred that “at the end of the day, Hamas must be eliminated.” He added  that “we must be mindful of the innocent people caught in this web.”

“There is no future with Hamas” for the Palestinians, said Cardin.

“Hamas hates the Jewish people, and cares nothing about the Palestinian people,” said Rhode Island Democratic Senator Jack Reed.

Singling out US ally Qatar, Alaska Republican Dan Sullivan warned that countries that host and fund Hamas “need to get with the program.”

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid meets with a bipartisan group of US senators, October 22, 2023 (Office of Yair Lapid)

Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat of Connecticut, revealed that he has a cousin fighting in the IDF against Hamas. “When I met with those [family members of] hostages, I saw my own family,” he said.

The group also included Susan Collins (a Maine Republican), Cory Booker (a New Jersey Democrat), and Katie Britt (an Alabama Republican).

The group also met with National Unity party chairman Benny Gantz and with Opposition Leader Yair Lapid.

Lapid asked them to end the current chaos in Congress over the House speakership, “to put it all aside for a military aid package.”

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