GOP’s Elise Stefanik to Israel’s Knesset: ‘With God’s help’ Trump will be reelected
New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Republican, chats with Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana in the Knesset, Jerusalem, May 19, 2024.
Photo: Noam Moskowitz | Knesset Press Office

By Ron Kampeas
May 20, 2024

(JTA) — Elise Stefanik, the New York Republican congresswoman who took the spotlight for grilling Ivy League presidents about campus antisemitism, spoke at Israel’s parliament on Sunday, where she asked for God’s help getting Donald Trump reelected. 

“When the enemy is inside the gates of the United Nations, America must be the one to call it by its name and destroy it,” Stefanik, the fourth-ranked Republican in the House, said Sunday in her speech to a Knesset caucus focused on Jewish and pro-Israel students worldwide. 

“President Trump understood that, and b’ezrat Hashem, we will return to that strategy soon,” she added, to some chuckles from the Israeli lawmakers in the room. “B’ezrat Hashem” means “with God’s help” in Hebrew. Stefanik received warm applause at the end of the speech. 

Speeches by U.S. lawmakers in the Knesset are rare, and have historically avoided blatant electioneering. American leaders once refrained from criticizing the incumbent president’s foreign policy in appearances abroad. In recent years, members of both parties have been accused of breaking that unwritten rule.

Stefanik’s speech stood in stark contrast to one delivered at the Knesset last year by former Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California, who hewed to nonpartisan themes and invited Democrats to accompany him. 

Stefanik made the speech while on a trip to Israel in which she has met with Israel’s president and foreign minister as well as families of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana, who invited Stefanik to speak, praised her “for speaking truth to power.”

She has gotten plaudits from Israel advocates for her questioning of university leaders, though in the past she has drawn scrutiny for propagating the baseless claim that Democrats are working to replace conservative voters by advocating for undocumented immigrants. Critics and antisemitism watchdogs say it is an echo of an antisemitic conspiracy theory cited in multiple far-right attacks.

Stefanik focused much of her speech on the explosive congressional hearing in December where she asked the presidents of Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology whether calls for the genocide of Jews violated school rules. All said the answer depended on context. The exchange drew global attention, and two of the presidents resigned in its wake. 

Stefanik claimed that the exchange was indicative of a deeper problem at American universities — a case Republicans have made in recent months as pro-Palestinian encampment protests have spread across schools.

“Their disgraceful attempt to contextualize genocide of Jews is a symptom of decades of moral decay, intellectual laziness, and dangerous radical groupthink at these so-called ‘elite’ institutions across society,” Stefanik said. “We have put colleges and universities on notice and expanded this investigation to ensure every Jewish and Israeli student, faculty member, and staff member is protected on campus.”

And she condemned “the pro-Hamas apologists on so-called elite campuses across America” who, she said, “are in a paroxysm of blood lust, cosplaying Hamas, calling for ‘intifada’ and genocide with signs saying ‘Final Solution.’”

Stefanik, a close ally of Trump, also made accusatory claims that drew direct contrasts between the former president and Biden. 

“There is no excuse for an American president to block aid to Israel – aid that was duly passed by the Congress,” she said referring to Biden’s decision this month to delay the delivery of heavy bombs while he assesses how Israel conducts a major military operation in the Gaza city of Rafah. Biden and his deputies have said that the decision does not impact the billions of dollars in military aid to Israel passed by Congress in April — supplemental assistance Biden had called for for months. 

Stefanik also repeated the Republican claim that the Biden administration paid “a $6 billion ransom” to Iran, referring to money the United States released in a prisoner exchange last year. Biden said the money would be used for humanitarian purposes, and Congress blocked Iran from accessing it following the Oct. 7 invasion of Israel by Hamas, which Iran funds.

Tensions between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have blown into the open in recent weeks, and were accelerated by Biden’s decision to pause the delivery of the bombs. Biden wholeheartedly backed Israel following the Oct. 7 attack, but has criticized Israel in increasingly blunt terms as the death toll in Gaza has mounted. He has also faced sustained pressure from progressives to end his support for Israel’s campaign in Gaza. 

 On Sunday, delivering the commencement speech at Morehouse College, a historically Black school in Atlanta, he heard the valedictorian speaker call for an immediate ceasefire in the war, and said he backed that call. 

”It’s a humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” he said at Morehouse. “That’s why I’ve called for an immediate ceasefire.” 

Biden’s administration has pushed for a negotiated ceasefire with Hamas that would free the more than 130 hostages, both living and dead, held in Gaza. He has placed blame on Hamas for the lack of a deal. 

In her speech, Stefanik backed Netanyahu’s calls for allowing Israel to achieve total victory. 

“Total victory starts — but only starts — with wiping those responsible for October 7th off the face of the earth,” she said. “There can be no retrievable dignity for Hamas and its backers.”

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