Senior Republican close to Trump criticizes Biden's arms holdup in speech to Israeli parliament

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Elise Stefanik, a House Republican leader seen as a candidate to be Donald Trump's running mate, delivered a speech before Israel's parliament on Sunday in which she criticized President Joe Biden's approach to the war in Gaza.

Stefanik, the fourth highest-ranked Republican in the House of Representatives, is the latest of several U.S. politicians from both sides of the aisle to visit Israel since Hamas' Oct. 7 attack ignited the war in Gaza. But it's rare for such visitors to address Israel's parliament, known as the Knesset.

Speaking at a session dedicated to combatting antisemitism worldwide, Stefanik vowed to help with “crushing antisemitism at home and providing Israel what it needs when it needs it, without conditions.”

She was referring to Biden's decision to hold up the delivery of some 3,500 bombs of up to 2,000 pounds each, and his refusal to provide offensive weapons for a long-promised Israeli invasion of the southern city of Rafah. The administration fears such an operation would plunge Gaza into an even more severe humanitarian catastrophe.

“There is no excuse for an American president to block aid to Israel that was duly passed by the Congress, and there was no excuse to ease sanctions on Iran,” she said.

Stefanik, a representative from upstate New York and a strong supporter of Trump, is believed to be on the short list of his possible running mates.

In December, she grilled university presidents at a five-hour congressional hearing about antisemitism on campus. Two of the university presidents, from Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, resigned soon after.

“Total victory is not just physical self-defense, but ideological self-defense,” Stefanik said during the session, referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's frequent claim that Israel must achieve “total victory” in the war against Hamas.