December 2, 2023

Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Carmel Valley, arrived within the Center East final week with grand ambitions of serving to Israel and Saudi Arabia inch one step nearer to a peace deal that — simply years in the past — would have appeared inconceivable.

He returned stateside Wednesday having watched all of these plans crumble in a single day.

“We went on the journey to speak about peace, however we left the world speaking about warfare,” Panetta stated.

The unprecedented assault on Israel by the Palestinian group Hamas on Saturday performed out whereas Panetta and a bipartisan group of U.S. representatives and senators have been in close by Saudi Arabia. Till that time, their aim had been to tour the Center East as a part of efforts by the USA to safe a string of peace offers within the area between Israel and several other close by nations, together with Saudi Arabia. After the assaults, Panetta and his fellow members of Congress drove into Israel to fulfill with People impacted by the preventing, in addition to Israeli leaders, together with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of International Affairs Eli Cohen and opposition chief Yair Lapid.

In an interview with this information group, Panetta hailed Israel’s resolve and voiced optimism {that a} peace deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia – which has refused to formally acknowledge Israel since its creation in 1948 – would possibly but be salvaged in some type. Listed below are excerpts from that interview, edited for brevity and readability.

Q:You met with People in Israel, in addition to individuals whose kin have been kidnapped by Hamas throughout Saturday’s assault. What did they inform you?

Panetta: One of many People stands out – principally they’d two sons within the Israeli Protection Forces, and their greatest pal was killed on this atrocious assault. But, that hasn’t deterred them. That has emboldened them to proceed their service in protection of Israel. So it was very attention-grabbing to listen to an American citizen discuss that means about his children, his two boys, who’re serving and doubtlessly preventing for Israel and the protection of Israel.

And we met with a brother and sister whose father was kidnapped from probably the most southern city that was attacked by Hamas within the invasion. The daddy and mom (who’re of their 80s) have been in a protected room, as a result of they’re type of skilled to enter these protected rooms. However what you need to understand is these protected rooms are extra for defense from rocket assaults, not for defense from a terrorist assault like this. So there aren’t any locks on these doorways, since they need to have the ability to entry the protected room after the rocket assault. The terrorists really entered into their properties, discovered the protected room, and have been attempting to open the door. And the daddy, in an effort to guard the mom, principally exited the protected room and that’s when he was kidnapped and brought away.

What I believed was attention-grabbing was the resolve of this brother and sister and that they consider that their father remains to be alive — they’re simply nervous about him having his remedy. And to me, that’s a small instance of the willpower all Israelis have in coping with all these evil assaults on their nation.

Q: What did the Israeli officers you spoke to ask for? And what was your message to them?

Panetta: What we heard just about persistently from all of them was how traumatic this was. But on the identical time, once more, we heard about how decided they’re and can proceed to be transferring ahead. And hoping for the USA’ assist in these efforts going ahead to make sure that they defend themselves from Hamas, and to verify they proceed to work exhausting to destroy Hamas. That’s precisely what we’ll proceed to do all through these upcoming efforts. However it’s not going to be straightforward, it’s going to be a tough path ahead.

Q: Do you could have any expectation or optimism that peace accords between Israel and different close by nations — corresponding to Saudi Arabia — will proceed to maneuver ahead? Or are you issues these assaults will imperil these efforts?

Panetta: I do consider that’s a part of the motivation of Hamas to hold out this bloodthirsty assault, within the sense that they wished to kill Jews, they wished to kill the Jewish society they usually wished kill peace. Regarding the peace course of, it’s most likely on pause proper now. However based mostly on our discussions with the management — not simply in Israel, however the management within the Center East — I believe the individuals wish to take that flip, to having principally peace in that space via these agreements.

Q: There seems to be little, if any, humanitarian reduction being allowed into Gaza to assist civilians in the mean time. Do you could have any issues in regards to the degree of response by Israel, and the dearth of humanitarian assist stepping into Gaza? And do you could have any crimson traces in relation to that?