Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, praised President Joe Biden on Sunday for his support of Israel following Hamas’ attack, while criticizing Donald Trump for calling Hezbollah “very smart,” saying it was a “huge mistake.”
“I want to applaud President Biden for his strong statement in support of Israel,” he said while appearing on NBC News’ Meet the Press. “I just got off the phone with Israelis. Their goal is to destroy Hamas in the south and try to save as many innocent Palestinians as possible, to prevent escalation north from Hezbollah.”
In an address on Tuesday, Biden said that Israel has not just a right, but a duty to defend itself against the “pure unadulterated evil” perpetrated by Hamas, a Palestinian militant group designated by the United States as a terrorist organization.
The following day, Trump complimented Hezbollah, a Lebanese Islamist militant group that the U.S. also designates as a terrorist organization, during a speech in Palm Beach, Florida.
“Hezbollah are very smart, and they [Biden administration] have a National Defense minister saying ‘I hope Hezbollah doesn’t attack us from the north.’ So the following morning, they attacked,” Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 GOP presidential primary, said. “They might not have been doing it, but if you listen to this jerk, you would attack from the north because he said that’s our weak spot.”
When asked about Trump’s comments on Meet the Press, Graham, an ally of the former president, said: “That was a huge mistake.”
He added: “If I were President Trump, I’d talk about being the strongest president for Israel in modern times. He issued a statement two days ago, ‘I stand with Bibi. I stand with Israel.’ Yeah, it was a mistake. He’s on the right track, but Biden’s administration’s border policies are failing and their policies against Iran are failing.”
Bibi is the nickname of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who Trump previously criticized. During his speech on Wednesday, the former president said that Israeli leaders needed to “step up their game” and in an interview on The Brian Kilmeade Show, he said Netanyahu “was not prepared” for Hamas’ attack.
Newsweek reached out to Trump’s office for comment via email.
On October 7, Hamas led the deadliest Palestinian militant attack on Israel in history. Israel subsequently launched its heaviest ever airstrikes on Gaza. The Gaza Health Ministry said 2,329 Palestinians have been killed since the fighting erupted, according to The Associated Press on Sunday. More than 1,300 Israelis have been killed, the agency said.
Graham said that Trump’s remarks on Netanyahu was “not helpful,” but still backed the Republican presidential candidate for his past policies in the Middle East.
“He recognized Jerusalem as the capital [of Israel], he recognized Golan Heights as a part of Israel, he put into place the Abraham Accords,” the senator said Sunday.
The Abraham Accords was a peace agreement signed in 2020 between Israel, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, which was brokered by Trump with help from his son-in-law and White House senior adviser at the time, Jared Kushner.
Kushner, however, has since been criticized for the peace agreement’s failure to provide solutions to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Graham also gave a message to Iran, which backs Hezbollah and Hamas.
“If Hezbollah, which is a proxy of Iran, launches a massive attack on Israel, I’ll consider that a threat to the state of Israel, existential in nature, I will introduce a resolution in the United States Senate to allow military action by the United States in conjunction with Israel, to knock Iran out of the oil business,” he said. “Iran, if you escalate this war, we’re coming for you.”