GOP U.S. Senate candidate Dave McCormick returned to Pennsylvania from Israel on Friday with a message for his fellow Americans: Stay the course and stick with Israel.
“This is not a time for equivocation. We need to support Israel in its totality in terms of taking on this horrible threat,” McCormick told reporters. It springs from a radical jihadism that’s underwritten by Iran.
“This is something we need to confront, and Israel stands on the front line,” McCormick added.
McCormick and his wife, Trump administration official Dina Powell McCormick, spent several days in Israel this week meeting with Israel Defense Forces (IDF) leaders. They also visited the Kfar Aza kibbutz east of Gaza, the site of one of the Hamas terror attacks of Oct. 7. Nearly 50 residents were murdered, and at least 20 others were reported missing.
“When you walk through the rubble, and you see the buildings and the pockmarks from the bullets and grenades,” said McCormick as he described the destruction at the kibbutz that was once home to more than 700 residents. “Where you see the blood that remains from that horrible day. It just reinforces what a horrific act of terror this really was.”
One particular scene at the kibbutz that shook McCormick was a text exchange between one resident, a young woman who was hiding in a safe room with her boyfriend and her father. “It ends abruptly when the terrorists are able to break into the safe room and ultimately kill them. It was just awful.”
Perhaps the most memorable part of McCormick’s visit to Israel was watching a 47-minute video compiled by the IDF that uses footage shot by the Hamas terrorists themselves during the attack.
“Brutal killings of families. Fathers killed in front of their children. Women dragged and mutilated…families destroyed,” McCormick said. “Once it’s seared into your memory, it’s very difficult to watch. So brutal, so graphic, so depraved.”
McCormick said his heart broke as he spoke with the families of hostages and survivors of the Hamas attack. A father of four, McCormick wondered what it was like for Israeli parents to “deal with the horrible uncertainty of not knowing the health of your child” and if they would ever come home.
As for groups in America and Europe demanding Israel agree to a ceasefire, McCormick accused them of irrational thinking.
“When you see what that group of radicals did…I think it becomes clear that there’s no negotiated settlement,” he said. “You can’t live side-by-side next to that and think that that’s not going to happen again. It’s an existential risk that Israel faces, and it has to be eliminated.”
The retired U.S. Army captain and Gulf War veteran sees civilian casualties in Gaza as “absolutely regrettable” but is convinced that the IDF is putting its forces at risk in order to “minimize the impact” of its operations. The blame, according to McCormick, should be on Hamas’s terror operation becoming “essentially embedded” into Gaza’s civilian infrastructure. He accused Hamas of using Gazans as human shields and preventing them from escaping into safe zones.
McCormick spent time with top government officials, including Israeli President Isaac Herzog, discussing America’s role in the current conflict. Those talks also focused on what the U.S. could do better in the Middle East and addressing terrorist havens like Iran.
“The appeasement of Iran and the Iran deal was the original sin,” said McCormick. “The United States under President Obama and then Biden gave Iran access to more than a hundred billion dollars of assets, which it’s used to directly to underwrite all these terrorist proxies around the Middle East.”
He blamed incumbent U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) for being “a rubber stamp” for the Biden administration. But he also said Casey hasn’t done enough for Pennsylvania while a senator over the past 17 years. “[Casey] hasn’t been a consequential senator in what’s arguably the most consequential state in the country,” McCormick complained. And on Israel, McCormick said, Casey has been “timid and weak.”
McCormick is all but certain to face off against Casey next November.
“Leadership matters, and I’m a man who’s had a career and a life demonstrating leadership in dealing with knotty problems,” said McCormick. “As it relates to pocketbook issues, that same leadership, that same kind of proactivity…are things that I would demonstrate on economic policy, on how to stop inflation by reducing our spending…Leadership transcends issues.”
McCormick wasn’t the only U.S. politician to visit Israel this week. Casey serves on the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, and a bipartisan group of its members traveled to the Middle East to meet with Israeli officials about the progress of the war with Hamas. Casey was not among them.
But he will be at the Pennsylvania Farm Show on Saturday.