A bipartisan group of U.S. senators led by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the highest ranking Jewish American lawmaker in U.S. history, and including Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, traveled to Israel over the weekend to meet with Israeli government officials and with the families of the American hostages held by Hamas.
At a press conference Sunday, the senators spoke about how the experience had moved them, and how it left them feeling resolved to move quickly on an aid package to Israel.
“This has been a heartbreaking, heart-wrenching experience, for me, for my colleagues, for the world,” said Romney.
The latest reports say there are up to 15 Americans among the hostages held by Hamas, and there are believed to be 126 hostages total.
Romney one of five senators included in delegation to Israel
Schumer organized the bipartisan delegation of five senators, including Romney and fellow Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, and Democratic Sens. Jacky Rosen of Nevada and Mark Kelly of Arizona. They met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, National Unity Party chairman Benny Gantz, President Isaac Herzog and other military and government officials.
“We say to the Israeli people: we have your back. We feel your pain, we ache with you, and we and our country will stand by you in these difficult times. Israel is a strong nation, and at this moment we say to Israel, you are not alone. The United States stands alongside you as an unrelenting partner,” said Schumer.
As the highest ranking U.S. Jewish elected leader, Schumer said he felt like he had to witness the aftermath of the attacks by Hamas.
“There are no words for the horror that happened last Saturday. It shook me to my core. I think about it all the time. I see the pictures of the little children, and I think what if this happened to my four year old grandson?” he said. “Most Jews killed in a single day since the Holocaust, more than on Kristallnacht. It was horrible.”
He said what happened in Israel reminded him of what happened to members of his family during the Holocaust.
“My great grandmother was the wife of a famous rabbi who had previously died in a town in western Ukraine. The Nazis came in. They asked her to gather her greater family on the porch. Approximately 35 people gathered, from ages 88 to three months. The Nazis said ‘you’re coming with us.’ She said, ‘we’re not going.’ They machine gunned every one of them down,” he said.
Senators met with families of hostages
The senators met with families impacted by the Hamas attacks, where they heard stories about women who were raped and the murder of babies in front of their parents, Schumer said. They also met with the families of those who had been taken hostage by Hamas.
“We met with some of the families of these hostages today. As a parent or grandparent, it’s truly heart wrenching, we wept as they told their stories,” he said. “And every second seems like a day, as they’re wondering what has happened to their child, to their parent, to their brother, to their sister.”
He continued, “And we told them we would do everything we could, including speaking to the president next week.”
In Israel, we met with families of the victims of this brutal attack by Hamas, families who didn’t know if their loved ones were alive, families whose loved ones were taken hostage. Their stories moved us. We stand with Israel. We won’t stop working to bring the hostages home. pic.twitter.com/6g7M18fhzW
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) October 15, 2023
Romney and the other senators echoed Schumer’s remarks.
“Meeting today with the families of hostages has been something I will never forget. And I can only imagine, can only imagine the horror in their lives. My heart reaches out to them, my prayers join with yours to see those hostages returned to their loved ones,” said Romney.
Romney warns of growing isolationism
Romney also spoke about the growing conflict, the loss of Palestinian life and the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, saying people should hold Hamas responsible.
“Hamas is holding their own population, the Palestinian population, as human shields. They’re using Palestinians to protect their own lives, Hamas’ lives,” he said.
To those in his own party who have embraced isolationism over a desire to keep the U.S. out of foreign conflicts, including in Ukraine, Romney said it’s in America’s interest to stay involved in the world.
“There’s a war being waged against free countries, against democracies, against freedom,” he said. “And it’s being waged by Hamas and Russia and China… and Iran,” he said.
Those countries want to “overthrow democracies generally, and subvert the cause of freedom,” Romney said.
“Backing away and saying, ‘Hey, we’re not going to worry about it,’ is not going to end their effort. That war would only continue and spread further and ultimately involve more and more of humanity,” he said. “So we’re involved in the world because it’s in America’s interest. It’s in Israel’s interest. It’s in all of our allies’ interests. It’s in the world’s interest.”
Would the U.S. send troops to Israel?
The press conference held at the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem was briefly delayed after an air raid siren went off, and the senators and others had to take shelter.
Schumer said an aid package will be put together, including humanitarian and military aid, which he hopes to get through the Senate in the next few weeks, even if the House is still mired in dysfunction over its inability to elect a speaker.
When asked what would trigger U.S. engagement on the ground in Israel, Schumer said Israel has not asked the American military to engage on the ground. They have asked for military and humanitarian assistance. The U.S. Navy announced it was sending a carrier strike group to the region in addition to assets already in the area.
There is concern Israel could be attacked by Hezbollah in the north as it fights Hamas in the south, and that Iran could get involved in the conflict.
https://www.deseret.com/2023/10/15/23917899/schumer-romney-hostages-israel-hamas-palestine What did Sens. Chuck Schumer, Mitt Romney say during visit to Israel?