WASHINGTON — U.S. lawmakers are rallying behind Israel, reaffirming its right to self-defense in the face of Palestinian rocket attacks. Some legislators’ backing of Israel extends to the possible use of ground forces in Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia said Israel cannot ignore rocket attacks, but faces tough decisions on how best to respond.
“The problem the Israelis have is [that] these rockets are being fired on them from places that they cannot reach by flying over them in the air," Chambliss said. "I mean, they [Palestinian militants] are putting them in school yards, surrounded by schoolchildren, and firing them from marketplaces that are crowded with people.”
Appearing on the U.S. television program Fox News Sunday, Chambliss voiced no opposition if Israel opted to use ground forces.
“Israel has a right to protect itself. And if sending ground troops in is the only way they can clean out these nests of rockets being fired at them, you cannot blame them for doing it,” he added.
Similarly, Republican Congressman Peter King of New York gave Israel the benefit of the doubt, saying, “I think Israel should do whatever it has to do to defend itself. I am not in a position, nor do I want to second-guess what Israel has to do.”
Speaking on ABC’s This Week program, King added that no one wants a ground war, but that only Israel can determine what is necessary to preserve its security.
During a visit to Thailand Sunday, U.S. President Barack Obama called for an end to rocket fire into Israel, and said avoiding further military escalation would be the “preferable” outcome.
“That is not just preferable for the people of Gaza, it is also preferable for Israelis, because if Israeli troops are in Gaza they are much more at risk of incurring fatalities or being wounded," said the president.
White House officials said the president has spoken with regional leaders in hopes of resolving the crisis. Egypt is viewed as playing a key role to that end.
On This Week, Democratic Senator Carl Levin urged Egypt to be more assertive with Hamas.
"The Egyptians have a real interest here in the region not exploding," said Levin. "I think they are going to have to take some very serious steps, diplomatically, to make it clear to Hamas that they will lose support in the Arab world if they continue these rocket attacks.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his nation is prepared to “significantly expand” its military operation against Hamas if the rocket firings are not stopped. But Israel has not revealed specific plans.