Photo Credit: Amos Ben-Gershom / GPO
Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem on April 17 2023

US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) met Monday in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and Israeli opposition leaders to discuss the ongoing threat from Iran, the international efforts to revive the moribund JCPOA nuclear deal and reconsideration of a potential mutual defense pact.

Graham arrived in Jerusalem from a visit to Saudi Arabia during a tour of the region.


Video credit: Omer Miron (GPO) / Sound credit: Ben Peretz (GPO)

The prime minister and senator first met together with Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and then held an expanded meeting that included officials from the prime minister’s office and national security council.

During his meeting with Netanyahu, Graham pledged to work towards normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia but refrained from describing the prospect as a slam-dunk.

“I told Saudi Arabia I’d like to upgrade our relationship,” Graham said.

“We have to do it in a way that would be reassuring to our friends in Israel,” he said he told Riyadh.

“I want to help President Biden. I told the Crown Prince that the best time to upgrade our relationship is now, that President Biden is very interested in normalizing relationships with Saudi Arabia and in turn, Saudi Arabia recognizing the one and only Jewish state. To the extent I can help make that happen, I will do it,” Graham promised.

“I believe that the Republican Party, writ large, would be glad to work with President Biden to change the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, that eventually could result in the recognition of Israel by the Saudi government. That is why I’m here. It will take a lot of effort, but it is worth trying.”

Netanyahu emphasized that Israel does indeed want normalization and peace with Saudi Arabia. “We view that as perhaps a giant leap towards ending the Arab Israeli conflict,” Netanyahu said.

“This agreement could have monumental consequences, historic consequences both for Israel, for Saudi Arabia, for the region and for the world.

“We welcome, obviously, the American participation by President Biden, by support from both sides of the aisle in Congress,” the prime minister added.

Revisiting Potential Mutual Defense Pact
Graham also raised the idea – previously suggested in 2019 – of a mutual defense pact “in very limited circumstances” that he said would involve “existential threats to the Jewish State . . . What I’m trying to say is that I want a clear message to be sent in the 21st century that destruction of the Jewish State means war with the United States,” he said.

He urged the establishment of “red lines” or “guardrails” around the Iranian nuclear program, specifically its stockpile of enriched uranium, weaponization of that stockpile and its efforts to create the ability to deliver a nuclear weapon.

The senator also met with former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, former caretaker Prime Minister and opposition leader Yair Lapid and former Defense Minister Benny Gantz. In addition, he was briefed by Mossad officials and was informed about current Iranian capabilities.

Graham was set to travel on Tuesday to the United Arab Emirates and from there on to Munich.

PA Leader Mahmoud Abbas in Saudi Arabia
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas arrived Monday in the city of Jeddah on an official invitation from the Saudi government.

Abbas was expected to meet with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman on Tuesday, according to a statement by the official PA news agency, WAFA.

Hamas Next to Visit Saudi Arabia
Gaza’s ruling Hamas terrorist organization, one of Iran’s proxies in the region, also arrived Sunday in Saudi Arabia for the first time in more than a decade, following Riyadh’s recent rapprochement with Iran.

The Hamas delegation, officially in Saudi Arabia to perform the “Umrah” – an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca – includes the terror group’s political chief Ismail Haniyeh, his deputy Saleh al-Arouri, the group’s head of “diaspora affairs”, Khaled Meshaal, and Hamas officials Mousa Abu Marzouk and Zaher Jabarain.

It is not yet certain the delegation with meet with Saudi officials, according to multiple reports, and is being held at arm’s length during the visit by Mahmoud Abbas, who heads the rival Fatah faction that leads the Palestinian Authority government.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.