U.S. Sen. Ted Budd, R-NC, got a firsthand look at the devastation left by Hamas terrorists during the Oct. 7 massacre at Kibbutz Nir Oz in Israel, along with a bipartisan, bicameral congressional delegation (CODEL) to the Middle East this weekend.

Carolina Journal’s Theresa Opeka speaks with Sen. Ted Budd, R-NC

The delegation, led by Sen. Joni Ernst, R-IA, also included Representatives Darrell Issa, R-CA, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-FL, Ann Wagner, R-MO, Don Norcross, D-NJ, Jimmy Panetta, D-CA, and Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-IA.

The group also stopped in Egypt, Qatar, and Bahrain.

He told reporters on a call Thursday that he believes now is the time to reassure our country’s allies and partners that they have a friend in the U.S.

“While in Israel, I was particularly moved by our visit to Kibbutz Nir Oz, which is about two miles from the Gaza border,” he said. “This peaceful community is where Hamas terrorists massacred innocent Israeli citizens and took dozens of people hostage, including Americans. To see the results of that barbarism firsthand only reinforces my resolve to do everything I can to secure the unconditional and immediate release of all the hostages.”

Budd said they also had dinner with some of the freed hostages, including Adrienne “Aviva” Siegel, wife of Chapel Hill native Keith Siegel, who is still being held hostage. He said only in the last ten days has Aviva been willingly open to share everything she saw, including the horror of her captivity and the sexual violence perpetrated on innocent women. 

“In the face of such atrocities, Aviva has been a pillar of strength and courage,” he said. “I told her that all of North Carolina and America is praying for their family, for a positive resolution.”

Budd told reporters that he just got off the phone with the families of the hostages, including Keith’s brother. He said they are asking for proof of life, but so far, there is no immediate update.

They also shared with Qataris Aviva’s recounting of events, but the main goal now is to pressure those with connections to Hamas to do everything they can to get the hostages home.

That includes Qatar’s Prime Minster, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, whom Budd met with during the trip.

“While our two nations are friends, sometimes friends have to be honest with one another,” he said. “I told the prime minister in no uncertain terms that his mission must do more to secure the release of American hostages, including Keith Siegel. Because Qatar is host to senior members of Hamas leadership and the primary mediators between Hamas and Israel, they hold significant leverage over the terrorist group, and we expect them to use it.”

Budd also met with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

U.S. Sen. Ted Budd, R-NC, was among the bipartisan, bicameral congressional delegation (CODEL) that met with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Source: Sen. Budd’s office.

He also had a message to those calling for a ceasefire and protestors blocking roadways across the country, including North Carolina. He told reporters that he wished they could have seen what he saw: burned-out buildings and children’s toys that were burned and destroyed. They would have understood, he said, that it wasn’t just one wave of terrorists but second waves that came through the Gaza fence with civilians looting and that it was the worst sexual violence anyone could imagine committed against the peace-loving Israeli citizens. 

“So, if they want peace, they have to understand first of all what happened first, and Israel is doing everything they can to minimize civilian casualties, but this was quite an atrocity that was committed, and again, we have to give Israel the latitude that they need to defend their sovereign territory,” Budd said.

Sens. Thom Tillis, R-NC, and Marsha Blackburn, R-TN, announced on Monday that they introduced The Safe and Open Streets Act  which would make it a federal crime to purposely obstruct, delay, or affect commerce by blocking a public road or highway.

Carolina Journal asked Budd what he would say to those protestors who may have been born around 9/11 or after that may not fully understand the magnitude of the situation.

“Understand your history and understand geography,” he stated. “You have a lot of young people that are well-meaning and want a more peaceful world that are out there chanting “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Shall be Free,” but they don’t even know what they’re referring to, and if they do, it’s even more cruel to say that because that’s from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea which is the whole of Israel being destroyed or wiped off the map. So please understand the history of the conflict and that it goes well beyond or before the founding of our own nation.”

He repeated a message that he had made in a call last month to reporters and in Congress that although the U.S. stands with Israel and is one of our greatest allies, we have to take care of what is going on at the southern border first before we can send any aid to Israel. A record 2.5 million migrants have crossed the border in 2023, with possibly many more, including those on the Terrorist Watch List that were unaccounted for.

Budd said he hates that the funding for Israel has been constrained due to the negotiations in Congress, but our priority should be with the southern border.

“I’m a realist in these negotiations,” he said. “We’ve got some daylight between the two parties, but hopefully, those on the other side of the aisle will see how desperate things are at our southern border and that we have to protect our own country first, and we’ve got some work to do on that. I’m grateful to Senator (James)Lankford (R-OK) for his leadership on this issue, and I look forward to hearing what he comes up with in the next several days.”

The delegation also visited with U.S. military members from North Carolina at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), and U.S. 5th Fleet at Naval Support Activity Bahrain.

Budd said that he came away from the trip encouraged by their progress but was also clear-eyed about the challenge before them and what they must do. 

“Now is the time to put America’s strength on full display,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s strength that deters evil and brings about peace and stability. That’s the core of our mission going forward.”