South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham Saturday pledged unwavering support to Israel in its conflicts with Hamas and Iran and vowed that the new Republican-controlled Congress would approve legislation to re-impose sanctions on Tehran should it not agree to limitations on its nuclear arsenal.
"The United States Congress, above all entities in America, has your back in a very bipartisan way," Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a joint news conference in Jerusalem. "The Congress clearly sees the difference between the tactics of Hamas and the democracy called Israel, and the international community seems to be a bit confused."
Graham said he agreed with Netanyahu that "the Hamas regime does everything they can to kill children," while the Israeli Defense Forces "does everything they can to avoid killing Palestinian children.
"They fire rockets and hope they land in schools; you attack the enemy trying to avoid collateral damage to civilians," the senator said.
He also praised the prime minister for his warning about Iran and its quest to obtain nuclear weapons: "Beware of the Iranians. They lie, they cheat. This regime for years has been deceiving the international community — and has been trying to pursue, in my view, a nuclear weapon."
Graham added that while he backed the Obama administration's efforts to "try to bring this to a peaceful conclusion," he added that Netanyahu "above all others, has said that sanctions are what got Iran to the table, and it will be the only thing that brings them to a deal that we can all live with."
The bipartisan Iran sanctions bill will be voted on next month, Graham told the prime minister.
"If Iran walks away from the table, sanctions will be re-imposed; if Iran cheats regarding any deal that we enter to the Iranians, sanctions will be re-imposed," he said. "It is important to let the Iranians know that from an American point of view, sanctions are alive and well.
"Congress will pursue sanctions for the bigger," Graham said.
Further, legislators will support a bill the senator co-sponsored that would require congressional approval for any end to sanctions as part of any deal negotiated with the P5+1 nations.
"You will see a very vigorous Congress, when it comes to Iran," Graham said. "You will see a Congress making sure sanctions are real and will be re-imposed at the drop of a hat.
"You will see Congress wanting to have a say about any final deal."
Regarding any peace treaty with the Palestinians, Graham promised "violent pushback if there’s any effort by the United Nations Security Council to set the terms of peace negotiations, avoiding direct talks.
"Any effort by the French, the Jordanians or anyone to avoid direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians over the peace process, anyone who tries to take this to the UN Security Council, there will be a violent backlash by the Congress that could include suspending funding to the United Nations," Graham said.
In his remarks, Netanyahu praised the senator for backing Israel over the years, saying that he welcomed his leadership on the Iran and Palestinian fronts.
"This is something that is important for the peace of the world," he said. "There are moments in history when nations have to stand firm.
"Israel stands firm on both sides, and on both issues."
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