May 19, 2021
Ted Cruz, Senate GOP Press Conference Transcript May 19: Conflict in Israel
Sen. Ted Cruz and other Republican senators held a press conference on May 19, 2021 to address the conflict in Israel. Read the transcript of the briefing here.
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Ted Cruz: (00:00)
… just four months into the Biden/Harris administration and we’ve already seen the disasters on the policy front racking up one after the other. We have a border crisis on our Southern border, an absolute disaster, because Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won’t enforce the law. We have gas lines across the country because of their failed energy policies and their failure to protect critical infrastructure. We have a burgeoning inflation crisis that is hitting people across the country, and especially seniors. And now we have a shooting war in the Middle East. Every one of these is caused by mistaken and disastrous political decisions from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
Ted Cruz: (00:50)
Just six months ago, the world was very different. Just six months ago, we had the lowest rate of illegal immigration in 45 years. Just six months ago, America was the leading producer of oil and natural gas and an energy superpower on the global stage. And just six months ago, peace was flowering throughout the Middle East. The Abraham Accords were historic, historic peace agreements between Israel and her Arab neighbors, and they were the result of strong and clear policies from the Trump administration.
Ted Cruz: (01:26)
Two decisions in particular by President Trump set the stage for the Abraham Accords. Number one, the decision to move our embassy to Jerusalem, the once and eternal capital of Israel, which President Trump made. Presidents of both parties had promised to do that, presidents of both parties had broken that promise. I was there in Jerusalem when we opened the embassy and it was a clear and unequivocal statement to our friends and to our enemies that America stands resolutely with Israel.
Ted Cruz: (01:59)
Then secondly, that same week, President Trump withdrew America from the disastrous Obama Iran Nuclear Deal, the single most important national security decision made by President Trump. Those two decisions set the stage for the Abraham Accords.
Ted Cruz: (02:19)
When the Abraham Accords were signed at the White House, I was there. I spoke with the ambassadors and foreign ministers from the UAE and from Bahrain, both said virtually the identical thing, both said, “It is now clear to us that America stands unequivocally with Israel. We want to be friends with America, therefore we will be friends with Israel.”
Ted Cruz: (02:45)
That clarity, that strength, produces peace. What did Joe Biden do? He came in and immediately began undermining Israel. He immediately began sending hundreds of millions of dollars to the Palestinian authority, which is in bed with Hamas terrorists. And he set as his number one foreign policy goal re-entering the disastrous Obama Iran Nuclear deal and sending billions of dollars to the Ayatollah Khamenei who chants death to America and death to Israel.
Ted Cruz: (03:20)
As a direct result of those failed decisions, we now have hundreds and hundreds of rockets raining down on innocent men, women, and children in Israel, from Hamas, funded by Iran. The Biden administration’s mistakes produced this crisis, and what is Joe Biden doing today? Today, he called Prime Minister Netanyahu, not to say America stands with Israel, not to say we have your back, not to say you have a right to defend yourself against terrorism, but instead a tough call, as the administration is now proudly trumpeting, where President Biden condescended and lectured to Prime Minister Netanyahu and urged him to stop defending Israel against the terrorists.
Ted Cruz: (04:12)
Let me be clear. There is no moral equivalency between terrorists murdering innocent civilians and a sovereign nation defending itself against those terrorists. Some years ago, Prime Minister Netanyahu put it powerfully when he observed the difference between Israel and Hamas. “They use their citizens to protect their missiles. We use our missiles to protect our citizens.” And Hamas regularly stores missiles in kindergartens, in hospitals, they use human shields, and what do the Democrats do? The Democrats act as their press agents. The Democrats spread propaganda, because human shields are all designed locating military assets where innocent Palestinian civilians are likely to be the inadvertent targets of any act to strike back against the terrorists. It is Hamas that is killing these human shields. And the Democrats in the press are happily parroting that propaganda language.
Ted Cruz: (05:20)
Several years ago, I led a bipartisan resolution that passed unanimously in the Senate condemning the use of human shields as a war crime. It is a war crime, but right now the Democratic Party is governed and led by the extreme left, by the squad, by AOC and Talib and Omar, whose statements might as well be issued on behalf of Hamas. They are accusing Israel of engaging in terrorism.
Ted Cruz: (05:47)
Defending your citizens from violent terrorist attacks is the right of Israel. And I will say for every Senate Democrat, they have an opportunity right now to decide where do they stand? Just a minute ago I was speaking with a reporter who relayed that Chuck Schumer had told him, “I don’t want to answer any questions on Israel.” Well, I bet he doesn’t. I bet he doesn’t because he’s so scared of AOC primarying him from the left that he doesn’t want to say anything to anger the anti-Israel extreme left in the Democratic Party.
Ted Cruz: (06:25)
Now is a time for men and women with courage to step up and say, we stand with Israel. And by the way, now is a time when the Biden administration ought to step forward and say, we’re going to replenish the Iron Dome munitions that are saving thousands of lives by intercepting these terrorist rocket attacks. Instead of attacking and belittling and undermining the Nation of Israel, President Biden ought to be standing with Israel and replenishing the Iron Dome munitions. And with that, I think next is Senator Ernst.
Marsha Blackburn: (07:04)
Thank you folks. And thanks for coming out today. Number one, Hamas is a terrorist organization. Number two, Hamas is intent on destroying Israel. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. They are our closest of allies. And we are all here today, and I can guarantee that each one of us assembled here is willing to pledge our unequivocal support to Israel. Now the Biden administration should be willing to do the same thing.
Marsha Blackburn: (07:50)
Hamas, again, a terrorist organization. To reenter into the JCPOA at this point in time, and to work with Iran, who is the number one state sponsor of terrorism, Iran, who is backing Hamas, to enter into that JCPOA by this administration right now would be absolutely the wrong thing to do. Not only for our American citizens, but also for the state of Israel.
Marsha Blackburn: (08:26)
Again, I am here to pledge my unequivocal support to Israel, and I know that every one of my colleagues right here today will do the same. We are asking that the Biden administration come forward in a strong statement of support for our closest friend and ally in the Middle East, Israel.
Ted Cruz: (08:51)
Thank you, Joni. Next is Senator Rick Scott.
Rick Scott: (08:56)
Where’s Chuck Schumer? Where is he? In 2014, the Democratic Majority Leader, Harry Reed, he…
Speaker 1: (09:03)
In 2014, the Democrat Majority Leader, Harry Reid, he led a resolution, the unanimous resolution to support Israel and to condemn Hamas. Where’s Chuck Schumer? As you heard Senator Cruz just say, he’s nowhere to be seen. He doesn’t want to talk about Israel because he’s part of the radical left now. He’s gone off the deep end. Israel is being bombarded with rockets by a terrorist organization, Hamas. The Democrat Party, the radical left, they’ve abandoned American principles and now they’re abandoned American allies.
Speaker 1: (09:33)
Israel is the greatest ally we have in the Middle East, the only democracy. And what does the Democrats doing? Joe Biden says he wants to get back and the Iran Deal. He wants to give money to the Palestinians. So there’s no moral equivalency here. Hamas is doing everything they can to kill Israeli citizens. And how does Israel handle it? They’re letting the people of the Gaza Strip know where they’re going to bomb so they can get out. So what do we have to do? Biden has to get a backbone. He has to stand up for American allies. He doesn’t have a backbone right now. What’s he need to do? Stop talking to Iran. State-sponsored terrorism, don’t talk to them. Stop giving money to the Palestinians and stand up for the greatest ally we have in the Middle East, Israel.
Ted Cruz: (10:21)
Senator Marsha Blackburn.
Marsha Blackburn: (10:26)
I am so pleased to stand here with my colleagues today. When I talk to Tennesseeans, they are watching what is happening in Israel with disbelief. They cannot believe that Israel is being encouraged to just strike some kind of cease fire, to just take the nearly 2000 rockets that have hit them in the last couple of weeks and say nothing. And the excuse from the left is, “Well, Hamas isn’t a country.” But as my colleagues have said, Hamas is a terrorist group. We know that. We know this they’re being funded by Iran. We know that their goal is to annihilate Israel. Israel is a sovereign nation. They have a right to self defense. And it is imperative that we stand with Israel, that we show our support with Israel, that we make certain that through this, our allies know that they are our ally and friend and our enemies get the message that they are our enemy and we will come after them when they attack our allies and our friends.
Ted Cruz: (11:52)
John Cornyn: (11:54)
Well, the number one malign actor in the Middle East is Iran. As you’ve heard a form of the foremost state sponsor of terrorism, Hamas is its proxy. It’s also been a state department designated terrorist organization since 1997. There’s one way that Hamas could stop this conflict and that is to lay down its arms. But if Israel decided to lay down its arms, there would be no more Israel.
John Cornyn: (12:25)
So the JCPOA, as you’ve heard about, the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action was the agreement that the Obama administration entered into that allowed Iran to continue to prepare its nuclear program and did nothing to prevent it from getting a nuclear weapon. The last thing we ought to tolerate is Iran, the number one state sponsor of terrorism that wants to wipe Israel off the map and wants to rule over the Middle East. We we have to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon. So this is not that complicated. Israel is being attacked by terrorists. And given the choice of standing by Israel or standing by these terrorists, we stand by Israel.
Ted Cruz: (13:15)
Jerry Moran: (13:16)
Ted, thank you. It’s shocking to me to see how much the administration has changed over time in regard to support for Israel. It was a given that whether it was a Republican administration or a Democrat administration for long time in our country’s history, that we recognize the importance of Israel, our ally, and today we’re here because that no longer is evident. We are sending a message first to our own administration, to our colleagues in the Senate, particularly to our Democrat colleagues that standing with Israel is important. It is important. We are sending a message to the Biden Administration that it is important that they do what is morally correct and what is in the best interest of the United States, which is in support of Israel in these difficult and challenging times. And perhaps most importantly, we’re sending a message to Israel that the United States can be, will be a trusted ally as it faces the challenges from Hamas, the terrorist organization masquerading as supporters or providers for the Palestinians. Its primary mission has little to do with the Palestinians, but the destruction of Israel. It’s surprising. It’s shocking. It’s disappointing that it’s necessary to do that when this was a given, something our country understood for a long time. And while it’s the right thing to do for Israel, it’s the right thing to support Israel for the citizens of the United States. This isn’t just about a foreign country. This is about whether the United States and the world we live in is a trusted ally. It supports its friends. It supports its allies. And makes it easier and safer not only for Israel, but it makes it safe and secure for the citizen of the United States. We need friends and allies around the globe as we combat our adversaries, China and others. And if we lose our friends because we never stood by Israel, if the message becomes we are no longer trustworthy to the rest of the world, we damage our own country, our own people’s safety and security. Mr. President, Mr. Schumer, Leader Schumer it’s time for all of us to come together and demonstrate we still support, we continue to support our ally, Israel, in its challenging times. Thank you.
Ted Cruz: (15:33)
Mike Lee: (15:38)
There’s a lot of complexity in international relations. We can draw sometimes from the movie Princess Bride where a couple of rules were set down. Never fight a land war in Asia and don’t engage in a battle of wits with a Sicilian where life is on the line. If the movie, The Princess Bride, were released today rather than in 1987, they might add a couple of other rules. Never legitimize or fund an international terrorist organization. And don’t legitimize regimes that in turn support terrorist organizations. I think it’s important for us to draw those lines today at a moment when we’ve seen thousands of rockets being fired by Hamas into Israel.
Mike Lee: (16:17)
Now these rockets, as they’re being fired in, they raise a couple of questions. What are their targets? Basically, any person in Israel. Their purpose? To rain destruction and terror on the people of Israel. That’s it. And so in those moments, we can’t pretend as if these are completely moral equivalents on both sides of these. When you have thousands of rockets being fired into Israel, Israel has a right to defend itself. In fact, that sentence is almost a direct quote from a statement that President Biden made just a few days ago, last week I believe. Israel does have a right to defend itself when it’s got thousands of rockets raining in on it, being fired in from Hamas.
Mike Lee: (17:07)
This does raise the question of why and in what ways are we legitimizing or, in some cases, even funding Hamas. It also raises important questions as to why on earth the Biden Administration would ever want to legitimize Hamas’s sponsor, the regime in Iran, by reopening talks regarding the JCPOA in Vienna or anywhere else. We shouldn’t be legitimizing that. This really is disturbing and ought to be disturbing, regardless of one’s political affiliation or partisan leanings. This is a basic issue involving the right of a group of people to exist, a group of people whose very identity and right to live in peace and harmony is being threatened and challenged and directly attacked by thousands and thousands-
Speaker 3: (18:03)
… And directly attacked by thousands and thousands of rockets. So don’t fund Hamas. Don’t legitimize Hamas. Don’t legitimize those who fund Hamas. And yes, that does mean Iran.
Ted Cruz: (18:14)
I want to thank Mike for a spectacular Princess Bride reference, and note that for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to be supporting Hamas terrorist over Israel should be inconceivable. Yes. Tom Cotton.
Tom Cotton: (18:30)
Breaking news, House Democrats have introduced a resolution to block military resupply to Israel. Think about it. House Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib want to prevent a resupply to Israel, the only Jewish nation in the world when it’s under terror attack by Hamas. Joe Biden needs to stand up and reject this radical anti-Israel proposal. But Joe Biden’s been rapidly caving to the left this week. He started out by saying he supports Israel’s right to defend itself. Then it became, he supports a ceasefire. Then his aid said, well, he talked really tough to Benjamin Netanyahu. Today he said he expects a significant deescalation from Israel. Joe Biden, pretty soon, it’s going to be supporting a resolution to block arm sales to Israel. What he needs to say is that he expects Iran and Hamas to stop terrorizing the people of Israel, and the people of Israel can expect the United States to stand with them all the way until Hamas is destroyed.
Ted Cruz: (19:41)
James Lankford: (19:43)
Thanks, Ted. So several months ago the Biden Administration started negotiating again with Iran to be able to reengage with these nuclear conversations on the JCPOA. In the meantime, Iran has started accelerating their production of oil, selling it out to China, putting it in storage in China, continuing to be able to expand what they’re doing to be able to put oil in the gray market. This would not have happened just months ago. But this administration is now allowing Iran to be able to run. They’re looking at reducing sanctions on the Iranian regime that emboldens Hamas, that continues to do a line of funding to the terrorists that are there in Gaza that are actually devastating the entire region. So what is happening directly with this administration is de-stabilizing the region.
James Lankford: (20:28)
Just months ago, they were talking about peace breaking out in the Middle East, and having the Abraham Accords and all that was happening with so many nations engaging, and now there’s disengagement in chaos in the process. We stand with Israel. That is a clear position for the United States and for the United States Government. That is the strongest negotiating position that we should have is to say, we stand with them. And when this administration says, well, we think we stand with them or we partially stand with them, it sends a signal to everyone in the region to undercut and it stirs this chaos that’s in the region. We need to speak clearly that we want to oppose terrorism in the region. This shouldn’t be a difficult thing. How hard is it for an administration to say, we oppose terrorism? That should be a simple statement to be able to make. We oppose terrorism and we want peace in the region. So let’s work to stop terrorism in the region and get us back to a position of negotiating and peace.
Ted Cruz: (21:22)
Dan Sullivan: (21:24)
So I think it is clear from this press conference we stand with Israel. The American people stand with Israel, that’s clear. But something else that’s clear in the context is very important here. Israel withdrew from Gaza, and in return, they’re having over 3000 missiles raining down on their civilians. Think about that precedent. They withdraw from Gaza, in return, 3000 missiles raining down on their civilians. That can’t be a precedent that anyone supports. Something else that’s clear, Hamas is a terrorist organization. That’s a fact. Hamas, when it does get money, doesn’t spend it on the people. They spend it on weapons, tunnels and the ability to fight the Israelis. That is a fact.
Dan Sullivan: (22:14)
One final issue. A theme of this press conference is how much the far left is driving the Biden Administration’s policies. That is continuing. Let me give you one other area where they’re starting to go after that’s a far left dream, missile defense. Right now what you’ve seen, and it’s one of the fortunate things that’s happening, is civilian lives are being saved because of years of cooperation between the United States and Israel on missile defense. Funding, testing. This has made huge advancements. Just recently, some of the Senate Democrats are now saying, we’ve got to get rid of American missile defense. It’s too expensive. And of course that’s not going to only just harm us, that will harm Israel. So all of these far left policies need to be reversed. We’re standing here with Israel today, and so do the American people.
Ted Cruz: (23:14)
Ted Cruz: (23:17)
Well, let me give voice to what my fellow Republicans have already said. We are here today to send a strong message that the State of Israel has a right to defend themselves, to defend themselves against these terroristic rocket attacks emerging from Hamas and any other terrorist activities that they may face. Just eight months ago, eight months ago we had unprecedented peace breaking out in the Middle East. We had the Abraham Accords that were paving the path to prosperity in the region. There was great optimism and hope about the national security situation, not just for Israel, but across the entire region. But here we are here. Here we are just months later and the wheels have literally fallen off the security situation. So what needs to happen? Well, number one, we need to cut off the terrorist financing from the largest state sponsor of international terrorism, Iran, which is funding the development of these rockets, which is supplying the very hardware being used to rain down terror and to take the lives of Israelis.
Ted Cruz: (24:38)
The other thing we need to do is affirm at every turn, not just here in Congress, but in the White House, President Biden needs to be unequivocal and very direct about his support for the State of Israel. And then lastly, something incredibly constructive that we could do this week in the United States Senate, is we could bring to the floor Senator Rick Scott’s resolution, which I have co-sponsored and many of my colleagues have co-sponsored, that affirms our collective support for the State of Israel during this incredibly challenging time. Let me also add one thing we should not do. We should not be sending a message during this incredibly challenging time for our closest ally, arguably, we should not be wavering in our support by sending a message that any future aid or assistance we give to the State of Israel is going to be restrained or conditioned. This is not the time for mealy mouth talk. This is the time for reassurance and to stand shoulder to shoulder as the State of Israel finds its way back to peace.
Ted Cruz: (25:50)
Cindy Hyde-Smith: (25:52)
Thank you, Ted. You don’t have to talk to me very long to understand my firm position of standing with Israel. The men and women beside me, we feel the same way at whatever costs that may come. Israel has the right to defend themselves. They are our allies. We are not going to abandon them in this time of violence. They have the right to defend themselves, especially against the most dangerous out there, Iran. President Joe Biden needs to stand up and firmly express his commitment to Israel right now is what he needs to be doing. And reposition the United States as a leader in the Middle East. It saddens me that that has not happened. Thank you.
Ted Cruz: (26:45)
Speaker 4: (26:45)
All right. Well, thank you, Ted, Senator Cruz. And you’re right. This nation is in a crisis. We’re importing more oil from Russia than Alaska. Our Southern border is overwhelmed. Our checking accounts are riddled with inflation. We’re standing in line for gasoline. And once-
Speaker 5: (27:03)
… with inflation, we’re standing in line for gasoline, and once again, there’s no peace in the Middle East. America, are you tired of losing yet? I want to stop and just remind Americans of who Hamas really is. They’re a murderous, antisemitic, misogynistic terrorist organization funded and armed by Iran, who never condemned the 9/11 attack. And if given the opportunity, Hamas would brutally kill every Israelite. Israel, on the other hand, Israel is America’s longtime ally, the only democracy in the Middle East, our eyes and ears in a troubled region, portions of which plot to kill Americans. I stand here to condemn, in the strongest terms, the Hamas aggression and release of some 3000 Iranian rockets. And let me say it, unequivocally, Israel has every right to defend themselves and must keep defending themselves. Israel should not bow to the White House passive policy or the anti-Israel voice that has sprung up on the other side of this Capitol or from the liberal media.
Speaker 5: (28:08)
Look, the world is testing our current president and our entire country right now, as they see the same crisis we all see facing this great nation, many of which seemingly created by ourselves. Let’s take a look at the Obama-Biden policy of the Middle East. They embolden and enrich Iran, the funder and supplier of weapons to terrorists. They discredit and halt the historic progress of the Abraham Accords and ignore Israel. Americans need to recall it took over a month for the president to call the prime minister of Israel, and we still don’t have a nominee for the ambassador to Israel. And finally, the White House has handed out hundreds of millions of dollars to Palestinians. All these are signals to Iran and Hamas, go ahead, full speed ahead.
Speaker 5: (28:52)
Look, I know that we all are praying for peace everywhere, and I know that many Christians and Jews across the world are praying for the safety and sovereignty of Israel. But instead of telling Israel to put down their swords after they were attacked without provocation, we should be saying, Israel, we stand beside you, like we do all our allies. Thank you.
Ted Cruz: (29:15)
With that, we’ll take a couple of questions. Yes.
Speaker 6: (29:16)
Hey, [inaudible 00:29:17] Senator Cruz, I wanted to ask, do you think that climate envoy Kerry’s reputed actions regarding disclosing classified information to Iran has harmed the US relationship with Israel and [inaudible 00:29:29].
Ted Cruz: (29:28)
Unquestionably. If those allegations are true, John Kerry should resign, or even better, Joe Biden should fire him. Anyone entrusted with national security, classified information should not be leaking it and especially should not be leaking it to Iran, the sworn enemy of America, whose leader regularly leads mobs chanting death to America and death to Israel. There needs to be a serious, objective investigation into whether John Kerry leaked that information, as Iran claims that he did, and if he did, he should be fired.
Speaker 7: (30:02)
Speaker 8: (30:03)
Senator Cruz, apart from these class for a cease fire, do you think the US has an obligation right now to help at least reduce or prevent civilian casualties, both in Israel as well as Palestinian [inaudible 00:30:16].
Ted Cruz: (30:16)
So Israel makes every humanly possible step to reduce and minimize civilian casualties. That is made substantially harder by the strategy that Hamas employs of using human shields, of basing their headquarters in the basement of a hospital, so they use Palestinian women and newborn infants as human shields, of putting missiles in kindergartens, so they use Palestinian kindergartners as human shields.
Ted Cruz: (30:44)
Hamas targets civilians. Their objective is to kill women, to kill children, to kill innocent civilians. Israel’s objective is to take out Hamas terrorists, and they take extraordinary gestures, including warning people in buildings before they hit it to evacuate the building, so that they can reduce or minimize civilian casualties. But I got to say, when there are civilian casualties, and Hamas ensures that there will be Palestinians who are civilian casualties, Washington Democrats act as Hamas’s mouthpiece when they condemn Israel for striking back at Hamas, and they become part of the political strategy of using human shields. And when you see the extreme left blame Israel for every step of the way defending itself, they are helping Hamas, and they are furthering the violence.
Ted Cruz: (31:40)
And I think anyone at home should ask yourself, why did this start now? Why, last year, did we see historic peace, did we see the Abraham Accords, and what changed? And what changed is Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s weakness, their undermining of Israel, and their support for Hamas terrorists and for Iran, and that is why the rockets are raining right now. And at least so far, Biden and Harris seem to want to double down on that failed strategy that is producing crisis and war in the Middle East.
Speaker 9: (32:13)
Speaker 10: (32:13)
Senator Cruz. Senator Cruz.
Speaker 9: (32:15)
Senator, you have a special relationship with [inaudible 00:32:26]. Are you going to be reaching out to [inaudible 00:32:26] about Israel calling the department, saying [inaudible 00:32:26].
Ted Cruz: (32:26)
Well, I would note, Javier, that you just apparently promoted AOC to Senator, and she might very well primary Chuck Schumer. She’s certainly setting Schumer’s policy and setting Biden’s policy. Listen, her rhetoric and Omar’s and Tlaib’s rhetoric has been shameful, in this regard, and particularly at a time like this, attacking and undermining Israel, accusing Israel of committing acts of terrorism, as the squad has done, it is unconscionable. And look, after a while, when every criticism they have is always directed at Israel and not at the terrorist attacking them, you start to wonder if there’s a pattern, we’ve seen antisemitic comments from the squad, but the pattern starts to be remarkably consistent.
Ted Cruz: (33:13)
And Joe Biden and Kamala Harris ought to have the courage to stand up to the crazy left, and instead of giving into their demand that we cut off essential weapons needed to defend Israel and protect Israel from terrorism, we ought to be replenishing, today, the munitions needed for Iron Dome, to keep not only Israeli citizens safe, but when Iron Dome works and works effectively, it keeps Palestinians safe as well. All right. Thank you guys.