Rep. Celeste Maloy visits Jerusalem, reaffirms support for ally amid Israel-Hamas war

Rep. Celeste Maloy, R-Utah, appears in a televised debate in Salt Lake City on Aug. 15, 2023. The congresswoman visited Jerusalem last week along with 15 other freshman lawmakers.

Rep. Celeste Maloy, R-Utah, appears in a televised debate in Salt Lake City on Aug. 15, 2023. The congresswoman visited Jerusalem last week along with 15 other freshman lawmakers. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY โ€” Rep. Celeste Maloy, R-Utah, reaffirmed support for Israel after visiting Jerusalem last week and hearing from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said "victory is within reach," in the country's monthslong military campaign in the Gaza Strip.

Maloy, who was first elected in a special election last fall, traveled to the close ally of the U.S. with a contingent of 15 freshman Republican lawmakers organized by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the nation's top pro-Israel group. The congresswoman appeared in a video posted by the group on social media, calling it "an honor to be here to show support and solidarity to our Israeli allies and to learn firsthand about some of the things they're going through."

Through a spokeswoman, Maloy told the group visited the Gaza Envelope โ€” the populated areas in southern Israel near the Gaza border โ€” and northern Israeli provinces evacuated due to the threat of Hezbollah, the militant wing of the Lebanese Shiite Muslim party.

Maloy said she "saw firsthand the destruction left behind by the horrific attacks of (Oct. 7, 2023)," in which Hamas militants killed at least 1,200 Israelis and took some 250 hostages.

"The trip underlined the need to be clear in our foreign policy," Maloy said. "Israel is seeing allies start to distance themselves, and we need to be clear that America stands with Israel. The same forces threatening Israel hate the USA. Their fight today will be our fight tomorrow if we don't support our most important ally in the Middle East."

The U.S. has long been the closest ally and largest provider of military aid to Israel, but tensions have risen between the two nations following the ongoing bombardment of Gaza by Israeli forces, during which some 33,000 Palestinians have been killed. Israel came under further world scrutiny after seven aid workers for the World Central Kitchen were killed by an Israeli airstrike last week.

Netanyahu has faced growing pressure at home for his failure to secure the release of all Israeli hostages taken during the Oct. 7 raids. While 105 people were released during a temporary truce last year, at least 130 who were kidnapped are either dead or still being held by Hamas and other groups.

The prime minister told the U.S. lawmakers the Israel-Hamas war "is a battle between not only Israel and Hamas, but I would say the axis of Iran, the terror axis of Iran that seeks to put the Middle East back into the Dark Ages and to force a terrible barbarism on us all," according to the Jewish Press.

"I have three message for you," Netanyahu said. "The first is we're going to win. Absolutely. Victory is within reach. It's very close, and there is no substitute for victory."

He also paraphrased former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in asking for additional aid from the U.S., saying, "Give us the tools and we'll do the job."

Finally, Netanyahu said Israel opposes attempts to "force, ram down our throats a Palestinian state, which will be another terror haven." He referenced a February vote of the Knesset, Israel's legislative body, rejecting a "unilateral" establishment of a Palestinian state without direct negotiations between the two sides.

Maloy isn't the first Utah lawmaker to visit Israel since October. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, joined a bipartisan delegation to Tel Aviv in the days after the Oct. 7 attacks, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, spent Thanksgiving in Israel.

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Bridger Beal-Cvetko covers Utah politics, Salt Lake County communities and breaking news for He is a graduate of Utah Valley University.


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