ICYMI: Senator Wicker Delivers Floor Speech Affirming Israel’s Right to Defend Itself

April 9, 2024

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the highest-ranking Republican on the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, yesterday delivered a speech on the U.S. Senate floor affirming Israel’s right to defend itself and criticizing the Biden administration for its threat to condition aid to an ally.


Watch the full speech here or read as delivered below.


Thank you, Madam President.


In 1948, President Truman recognized the State of Israel on behalf of the United States. He clearly called for the world, “to accord to the State of Israel the right to self-defense.”


In the decades since, American leaders have stood by Israel. Our support has been reliable, spanning presidential administrations and Congressional terms. It has been bipartisan. President Eisenhower continued President Truman’s promise to stand with Israel, establishing a bipartisan tradition cemented by presidents from Kennedy to Reagan, from Clinton to Trump.


In America, voters regularly select new parties to lead our country. Administrations come and go. Congresses come and go. That volatility makes it all the more profound that we have always kept our solemn promise to stand with our allies.


It has now been 75 years since President Truman made this vow. For those many decades, Israel’s position has always been and will be to live peacefully in its ancestral land along with its Arab and largely Muslim neighbors.


Slowly, often grudgingly, other nations in that region have come around to that position. Egypt agreed to peace with Israel in 1979. Jordan has been a longtime U.S. partner and has lived in peace with Israel since 1994. Recently, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain agreed to partnership with Israel in the Abraham Accords.


But one regime that has continually rejected the international consensus about Israel is the Islamic Republic of Iran. Three decades into this, the 21st century, Iran and its proxies continue to pursue Israel’s absolute annihilation. Coexistence has never been the policy of Iran, or its terrorist proxy group, Hamas.


Disturbingly, we find adherents of that view here at home. Last week in Michigan, protestors chanted “Death to Israel” and “Death to America,” rejecting either country’s right to even exist. This is one example of the rise of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incidents we have seen since October 7. They show us what our Jewish friends and allies fight against every day.


Of course, the protests and chants remind us of a pivotal event. Yesterday we marked the six-month anniversary of the October 7 attacks. Hamas, backed by Iran, demonstrated both its goal – the annihilation of Israel – and its strategy – the murder and hostage-taking of civilians.


October 7 was one of the worst attacks on the Jewish people since the Holocaust. It was a nightmare scenario that eight decades of Israeli citizens have had to guard against. In light of those atrocities, our task is clear: We need to reaffirm Israel’s right to self-defense.


Since October 7, Hamas has continued to pursue its goal by the same strategies. It single-mindedly seeks to wipe Israel off the map and does not care how many innocent people are lost on the way, how many families are burned alive. Hamas’ entire operation is a violation of international law.


By contrast, Israel has essentially been striving to administer civilian aid while uprooting terrorists who hide behind those civilians – all in dense, urban settings.


Madam President, international friends and allies can and should give advice and counsel to each other on issues of mutual security and diplomacy. That has always been the practice between Israel and the United States.


On the other hand, it is wrong to make demands of an ally and to suggest that vital aid to them will be withheld unless those demands are met. This is especially true when those conditions are ones which we ourselves could never accept.


War is always a tragedy.  On top of that, it also carries accidental sorrows in its wake.


The killing of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers was an avoidable and unmitigated tragedy. Our hearts break for their loved ones, their colleagues, and others delivering humanitarian assistance around the world.


And this is personal to me. Teams from World Central Kitchen have come to the aid of my state of Mississippi. World Central Kitchen was there on the ground during the recent Jackson water crisis. They answered the call in the wake of the 2023 tornadoes. I am an advocate and friend of Jose Andres. I have worn the World Central Kitchen cap in Poland, when I spent time with the group’s staff, serving meals to refugees from the brutal Russian invasion.


I believe that Israel takes the workers’ deaths seriously, too. The Israeli Defense Forces assumed responsibility right away. Its leaders promptly launched an investigation.


Since then, the Israeli government has said that the military committed “serious violations” of protocol. They have admitted this about themselves. They fired two officers and disciplined three others for mishandling information and breaking the Israeli Defense Force rules of engagement.


That is more than the Biden administration can say about themselves. In the chaos of our disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal, our military shelled a car in Kabul. Leaders initially feared the vehicle carried explosives destined for American service members. But it turned out to be a civilian vehicle, and 10 innocent people – including seven children – died at our hands. The Biden administration took far longer than Israel to own up to that mistake. I am glad our country did eventually acknowledge our fault.


This shows that the free world holds ourselves to exacting standards of care for the innocent caught in harm’s way – including the thousands that have died in Gaza since October 7th.


Time and again, Israeli combatants have published warnings before taking a building. They regularly give evacuation notices to civilians. And in so protecting the innocent, they risk giving the enemy a heads up. But they do this.


And yet, it has become fashionable to hold Israel to unachievable standards, benchmarks to which we do not hold ourselves or any other ally.


Hamas does not place itself under such handicaps. This Iranian proxy, Hamas, has no regard for the standards of civil protection. For one of many examples, look no further than the hostages taken on October 7 and their often brutal treatment.


Unfortunately, our president’s recent call for a ceasefire plays directly into Hamas’ hands. Our commander-in-chief’s priority should be the release of hostages and victory for our ally. But instead of displaying American resolve, our president seems to be mollifying the left wing of his party.


Calling for a ceasefire, instead of hostage release and unconditional victory, creates a false equivalence between Israel and Hamas. After Pearl Harbor, no one asked us about a ceasefire. After 9/11, no one asked the United States about a ceasefire.


We need to remember that Israel is fighting terrorists bent only on the destruction of the Jewish state. Hamas leadership has vowed to commit repeats of the October 7 massacres. If this terrorist group is not totally eradicated, it will continue killing and kidnapping.


To paraphrase former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir: If Hamas put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If Israel put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.


Hamas started this conflict, and they could end it today. Hamas could let hostages walk out of the tunnels and into the sunshine. Its militants could stop using women and children, and aid workers, and health care workers, as human shields.


We need to give our steadfast ally what it needs to win this battle. Victory has to be our position.


I believe we should keep our promises to our friends. Our commander-in-chief threatens to break that promise to Israel today.


The president’s call for an immediate ceasefire is tantamount to a call for Hamas to remain in business, to reestablish itself for future atrocities. That is not something that Israel will allow – nor should they. And it is not something that we should ask of Israel – or any other partner or ally.


A world in which a terrorist organization can win by committing mass murder is a more dangerous world for us all. The allies who have stood by us for seven-and-a-half decades, and who stood by us after 9/11 understood that then, and we should not forget that now.


Thank you, Madam President.


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