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In Israel, Sen. Graham says he’ll relaunch Saudi normalization drive

"I'm leaving here more optimistic than when I arrived," the U.S. lawmaker told reporters in Tel Aviv.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (right) of South Carolina with Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana. Photo by Noam Moskowitz/Knesset Press Office.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (right) of South Carolina with Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana. Photo by Noam Moskowitz/Knesset Press Office.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) announced on Sunday that he will resume efforts to establish a normalization agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, saying that the Hamas terrorist attack on Oct. 7 only made him more determined to pursue this goal.

Graham, who arrived in Israel on his second support visit since the Gaza war broke out, told reporters in Tel Aviv: “I’m leaving here more optimistic than when I arrived. I asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister Benny Gantz if they would want to move forward with an agreement with Saudi Arabia. Their answer was positive. I will take this message to Riyadh and convey it to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”

Graham, who played a significant role in the Saudi-Israeli normalization efforts before the war, said that after his previous visit to Israel two months ago, he heard from the Saudi leader that he was still interested in promoting the agreement with Israel.

“The ayatollah regime in Iran’s worst nightmare is that Arabs and Israelis make peace,” the senator said. “I think this [Hamas] attack was also meant to stop the reconciliation efforts between Israel and Saudi Arabia. The crown prince asked me if there is a stable Israeli government that wants this. I told him there is a partner but that security considerations will be even more important than before.

“At the end of the visit here, I will go to him and update him on what I heard,” Graham added.

The senior senator, who has good relations with the Biden administration, emphasized that Israel must destroy Hamas. He also backs Israel’s demand for buffer zones in the Gaza Strip. “We need to make sure that the events of October 7 do not happen again.

“Hamas needs to be destroyed and must not rule Gaza because that is what will prevent peace with Saudi Arabia. I also do not trust the Palestinian Authority. You cannot have Palestinian children continue to be taught to hate and kill Jews,” Graham stressed.

The South Carolina lawmaker added that a process of deradicalization must take place in the Gaza Strip. “Netanyahu is 100% right about that. You need to learn from our experience.

“In Afghanistan, we fought for 20 years, and in the end, the Taliban came back. You need to get to a situation where Hamas does not come back; like what happened in Germany and Japan [after the Second World War],” Graham said. On the other hand, the senator rejected proposals by senior Israeli politicians to resettle Gaza residents in other countries, saying they were not realistic.

Earlier, Graham toured Kibbutz Kfar Aza, which was savagely attacked during the Hamas invasion, with Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana. The two men met with kibbutz residents and relatives of hostages held in Gaza. Shahar Shnorman shared with them how he had to hide in a safe room with his wife for about 30 hours while hearing terrorists shooting nearby.

Graham and Ohana heard from a counterterrorism policeman about the battle that took place on Oct. 7 at the kibbutz in an effort to save the lives of residents. IDF and ZAKA search and rescue organization representatives told of the horrors they saw after the kibbutz was cleared of terrorists.

The Knesset speaker said: “Senator Graham is one of the best friends of the State of Israel. Many are still being held hostage in Gaza and our mission is not only to defeat Hamas but to bring them home to their families.”

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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