CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) will travel with a bipartisan delegation to the Middle East in the coming days to push for continued talks on normalizing relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Graham said the group of 10 U.S. senators will travel to both countries to show that America stands with Israel and encourage peace negotiations in the region.
“The trip to Saudi Arabia is to try to secure peace, not to further war,” he said.
This comes as the outbreak of war after a devastating Hamas attack on Israeli soil is threatening to delay or derail the years-long, country-by-country diplomatic push by the United States to improve relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
The so-called normalization push, which began under former President Donald Trump’s administration and was branded as the Abraham Accords, is an ambitious effort to reshape the region and boost Israel’s standing in historic ways.
Less than three weeks ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sat beside President Joe Biden and said that a “historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia” seemed within reach, a move that could lead to lasting peace in the region.
But those talks have now been put on hold due to the attacks in Gaza.
“For the moment, the focus has to be on helping Israel defend itself against the brutal terrorism of Hamas and we will have opportunities as we go forward to look at diplomatic initiatives like normalization that help lead to a long term more stable more integrated region,” U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday.
Graham said he believes the desire to halt efforts sealing diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia was a catalyst for Hamas’ attack. The two nations share a common enemy in Iran, a generous military and financial sponsor of Hamas.
“I am confident that the attack by Hamas, driven by Iran, was designed to stop this process,” he said. “Iran’s worst nightmare is for the Arab world to make peace with Israel and to look forward not backward.”
Graham has warned Iran against escalating the conflict in the week since Hamas launched its unprecedented, deadly attack on Israel.
“I want to put Iran on notice that ‘you’ve been the largest state sponsor of terrorism way too long,'” he said. “‘You have American blood on your hands and if there is any escalation, we are coming for you…we will knock you out of the oil business.'”
He added that the Senate is putting together a bipartisan emergency aid package that will include military assistance to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome rockets and provide medical aid.
“We need to give Israel the time and space to destroy Hamas and try to find a way forward with the Palestinians,” Graham said. “Destroying Hamas will not only make Israel safer, it will be a better day for Palestinians who do not have to live under this terrorist group.”
The package is also expected to include assistance for Ukraine in their war against Russia and money to secure the United States’ southern border.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.