Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with a delegation of US senators, headed by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.
(photo credit: GPO)
The United States should hold Iran, not only Hezbollah, responsible for any massive missile attack on Israel from southern Lebanon, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said on Thursday after he and a bipartisan delegation including six other senators met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Graham said that UNIFIL has been an “absolute, pathetic, miserable failure” in preventing terrorism from southern Lebanon, and the missile buildup there – including missile production capabilities – has turned into a “nightmare” for Jerusalem.
The senator said at a Jerusalem press conference after meeting Netanyahu that he would like to see a US policy that mandates that “if there is an attack from Lebanon against Israel – a large-scale attack generated by Hezbollah forces that are basically proxies of the Iranians – we would hold Iran responsible, not just Hezbollah.”
This policy toward Iran, he said, should be similar to president John F. Kennedy’s policy during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when he made it clear that any attack on the US from Cuba would be considered an attack by the Soviet Union, “because one couldn’t exist without the other.”
“That is the way I think we should approach Iran,” said Graham, who ran an unsuccessful campaign to win the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. “Iran needs to pay a heavier price – they are encircling our Arab allies and the State of Israel.”
Graham said that while Israel is “not perfect,” it is “a damned good ally.” He said that he will go back to Congress and urge it allocate more funds for Israel’s missile defense.
“It is time for the American Congress to give more to Israel in terms of missile defense, not less, because protecting Israel is protecting our own interests,” he said.
“No country provides better military intelligence to the US than Israel.”
The delegation to Israel, whose ranking Democratic member is Christopher Coons of Delaware, visited Jordan before coming to Israel.
Graham said that King Abdullah is “a terrific ally,” and that the delegation’s “No. 1 message” to Netanyahu was to help Jordan.
“They are a valuable ally to the United States and a good neighbor to our friend Israel,” he said, adding that he asked Netanyahu to “do everything he could to enhance trade” with the kingdom.
Although Graham did not mention Netanyahu’s current legal woes, he did allude to them, saying he found the prime minister to be “very engaged,” and someone who has not “taken his eye off the ball” when it comes to the security threats facing Israel.
“I’ve known him for 20 years, and when he speaks, I listen,” Graham said.
Coons said that while the visiting senators have differing opinions, “one thing that unites this delegation is the enthusiasm for the US support for Israel. The US-Israel relationship remains strong and bipartisan.”