Sen. Ted Budd gives updates on American hostages in Israel

Sen. Ted Budd (RN.C.), pictured in March, visited Israel last week and reiterated his support for the country in a meeting with reporters. (Chris Carlson/AP Photo)

RALEIGH — In a call with reporters on May 8, Sen. Ted Budd (R-NC) recounted his recent trip to Israel as part of a congressional delegation to the Middle East. The trip included stops in Israel, Iraq, Syria and the United Arab Emirates.

The congressional delegation also met with US forces conducting operations in the region as well as receiving a briefing from US military special operations commanders of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force.

Budd said he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while in Israel and discussed hostage negotiations, military operations in Gaza and “combating anti-Semitism around the world.”

“It’s my view that the United States must fully support Israel as they increased military pressure on Hamas to release hostages, including eight Americans,” Budd said.

During the Oct. 7, 2023, attack on Israel, the terror organization Hamas killed some 1,200 people and took more than 250 shelters. Around 100 of those taken were released last November amid a four-day pause in the war.

Budd said Israel — which has faced criticism, including from the Biden administration, for civilian deaths in the ongoing conflict — has been precise in how they were moving civilians out of harm’s way while noting Hamas uses civilians as human shields.

“It’s absolutely horrific,” Budd said of Hamas’ tactics. “Israel is following the laws of armed conflict and any loss of civilian life is absolutely terrible. But I’ve placed this squarely on Hamas.”

He also said he is “very concerned about our administration, which is eliminating sending (Israel) precision, guided munitions.” Budd added, “We need the administration to stop talking out of both sides of their mouths.”

Those concerns were expressed in a May 6 letter to President Joe Biden from Budd and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA). The letter also says Biden didn’t bother to tell Congress despite recent passage of funding and military aid.

“We are shocked that your administration has reportedly decided to withhold critical ammunition to Israel,” the senators wrote. “You promised your commitment to Israel was ironclad. Pausing much-needed military support to our closest Middle Eastern ally signals otherwise.”

Budd told reporters he had not received a response from Biden, but on the same day he briefed reporters, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed the US paused “one shipment of high payload ammunition.”

“We’re going to continue to do what’s necessary to ensure that Israel has the means to defend itself,” Austin said during a hearing in front of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on defense. “But that said, we are currently reviewing some near-term security assistance shipments in the context of unfolding events in Rafah.”

According to The Associated Press, “Biden signed off on the pause in an order conveyed last week to the Pentagon.”

Also on May 8, in an interview with CNN, Biden went a step further, stating if Israel undertakes operations in Rafah, “We’re not going to supply the weapons and the artillery shells used that have been used.”

The following day, The Washington Free Beacon reported that the Biden State Department “informed Congress that it intends to bypass laws that bar the United States from selling weapons to nations that boycott Israel.”

“The Biden administration, which has waived these sanctions in the past, said in the notification that it intends to extend the waiver through April 30, 2025, allowing weapons to be sent to a host of nations that work closely with the Hamas terror group and other Iran-backed terror proxies,” The Washington Free Beacon’s report states.

In his call with reporters, Budd also detailed a recent meeting with families of US hostages, including Aviva Siegel, the wife of North Carolina native and Hamas hostage Keith Siegel.

“Our position remains that Hamas must release Siegel and the rest of the hostages immediately and unconditionally,” Budd said.

Keith Siegel turned 65 on May 8. His wife was also taken hostage but was released after 51 days in captivity. She has spent her time since her release of ella traveling the world sharing their story of ella.

“I have great confidence that bringing all of the hostages home is part of the formula,” Budd said. “It’s clear to me that Prime Minister Netanyahu is focused on securing the release of the hostages.” He added the priority is “bringing as many homes as possible that are still alive,” as well as hostages that may have been killed by Hamas during captivity.

North State Journal asked if Netanyahu had indicated to Budd what the status of the hostages might be amid some reporting that many may not yet be alive.

“We just don’t know how many right now,” said Budd. “Of course, you saw the Hamas release video that was posted on Twitter a few weeks ago, but we just don’t know how many are living. (Israel is) updating their intelligence moment by moment, and some of it they have to keep confidential just to protect the state of the negotiations. But you can’t trust anything that Hamas says.”

Siegel was one of the individuals depicted in the Hamas video released online on April 27.

Budd also called protests on American college campuses “absolutely horrifying to the world” and the protests were “un-American” and “when protesters say things like ‘From the river to the sea,’ that’s encouraging genocide.”

 
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