Senator Saxby Chambliss, vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Senator Joe Lieberman, head of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, both expressed support on Sunday for Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza.
Both men appeared on Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace.
“I don’t think the Israelis really want a ground war,” said Lieberman. “They’ll go into Gaza if they feel they need to, to eliminate the remainder of the missiles, and a lot of which are supplied to Hamas by Iran, that have been coming over to Israel, hundreds of them, this year. So, really, the decision is up to Hamas, as to whether there will be a ground invasion of Gaza or not.
Hamas, he said, is “a terrorist group sworn to the destruction of Israel. It actually seized power in a coup from the Palestinian Authority. So these people are bad actors and no nation would put up with what Israel has up until now and they have to defend their people and their nation.”
Asked whether President Barack Obama should put more pressure on the Egyptian government and even threaten to cut off aid to get Hamas to stop firing rockets at Israel, Senator Chambliss replied, “He needs to exert every kind of pressure he can to try to make sure it doesn’t escalate into a full-blown war between the Palestinians and the Israelis and, whatever that takes.
“But, you know, the problem the Israelis have is that these rockets are being fired on them, from places that they can’t reach by flying over in the air,” he added. “I mean, they are putting them in school yards where they are surrounded by schoolchildren and firing them from marketplaces crowded with people.
“And, Israel has a right to protect itself. And, if sending ground troops in is the only way they can clean out these nests of rockets being fired at them, you know, you can’t blame them for doing it.”
Obama has mostly backed the operation in Gaza, telling Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that he supports “Israel’s right to self defense in light of the barrage of rocket attacks being launched from Gaza against Israeli civilians.” As well, both Houses of the U.S. Congress have unanimously passed resolutions expressing support for Israel’s “inherent right to act in self-defense.”
On Sunday, Obama repeated that the U.S. is, and will remain, “fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself.”
At the same time he added that “it would be better to prevent the rocket attacks without further escalating the conflict in Gaza.”
It would be better if Israel avoided a ground action, Obama said; If Israel could solve its security problem “without a ramping up of military activity in Gaza, that’s preferable, not just for the people of Gaza. It’s preferable for the Israelis because if Israeli troops are in Gaza they are much more at risk of incurring fatalities or being wounded,” he said.
On Wednesday, State Department spokesman Mark Toner also underscored Israel’s right to defend itself, saying, “We strongly condemn the barrage of rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel, and we regret the death and injury of innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians caused by the ensuing violence.
“There is no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organizations are employing against the people of Israel. We call on those responsible to stop these cowardly acts immediately. We support Israel’s right to defend itself, and we encourage Israel to continue to take every effort to avoid civilian casualties,” he added.
Western nations have mostly backed Israel during the Gaza operation and have stressed that the onus is on Hamas to halt rocket fire into southern Israel in order to stop the fighting.