Home Notebook: Warner heaps praise on Saudis, updates on Israel-Gaza after Middle East trip
Politics, US & World

Notebook: Warner heaps praise on Saudis, updates on Israel-Gaza after Middle East trip

Chris Graham
mark warner
Photo: Office of U.S. Sen. Mark Warner

It sounds like U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, on a recent trip to the Middle East, saw the Saudi Arabia that the Saudi royal family wants people to see.

“I’ve never spent any time real time in Saudi Arabia before, so I went with real interest on whether some of the reported changes that were taking place in Saudi society were real or not, and I have to tell you, I was impressed,” Warner told reporters on a conference call last week.

There wasn’t follow-up on whether Warner was able to get outside the bubble of security, press and aides on the congressional junket, so it’s probably fair to presume that what Warner was able to see was what you’d expect a Western leader to see on a guided tour.

The Saudis have been spending big money to try to clean up the country’s image – on TV and social-media ads, most visibly on sports, with the launch of a competitor to the PGA Tour, in addition to several high-profile purchases of teams in leagues across the globe.

I’m telling you that to suggest, take what Warner says he saw there with a grain of salt.

“This is a nation-state where as recently as five or six years ago, you couldn’t go into a restaurant that was not segregated – men, women, families, foreigners in different sections. This is a country now that’s where men and women are active, there’s a lot of women that are uncovered, we’re up to, they’re up to about 40 percent of the workforce being women, an enormous amount of development,” Warner gushed.

If that’s actually the situation there, great.

We should continue to have our doubts.

Focus on Israel

israel gaza
(© Robert – stock.adobe.com)

Warner was in the Middle East with a bipartisan group that met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A focus of the stop in Saudi Arabia was to discuss the royal family’s interest in normalizing relations with Israel, which is a point of emphasis because the Saudis are concerned about the influence of Iran through its proxies in the region.

Specific to Israel, Warner said the senators pressed Netanyahu to release tax revenues collected in Palestinian territories to the Palestinian Authority so that the PA can beef up its internal security services, which he said are essential to efforts on both sides to “make sure that the West Bank doesn’t explode.”

No progress has been made there, said Warner, who conceded to being “disappointed” on that point.

“We also urged the Israelis to get more humanitarian aid into Gaza. Literally, you’ve got 90 percent of the people who’ve been displaced. We’ve got to get humanitarian aid into those individuals,” Warner said.

Reaffirming his support for a two-state solution, Warner stressed also his continued support for Israel’s right to self-defense.

“Hamas is a brutal terrorist organization that has reiterated that if it’s allowed to rebuild, it will do another Oct. 7. And I saw the videos here, I saw them again in Israel, of the absolute brutality of these terrorists. Eliminating the Hamas senior leadership and taking them out of governing is a legitimate goal Israel has in terms of self-defense,” Warner said.

“But that does not extend to a level of casualty rate that now is past 23,000 in Gaza,” Warner went on. “We implored to the Israelis that with growing concerns in America in terms of support for Israel, between a much younger generation, and the fact of any potential for a long-term peace or particularly a long-term peace in terms of aligning against the Iranian back proxies, whether it be Hezbollah or Hamas, or whether it be the Houthis down out of Yemen, or some of the Shia back groups attacking our troops in Iraq, that kind of future collaboration is not going to happen until the level of violence goes down.

“I think there are many in the Israeli government and security services that understand that, but they’re a messy democracy just as we are a messy democracy at times, and this is an area that I’m hopeful long term, but I’m extraordinarily concerned short term, in the next 30, 60, 90 days,” Warner said.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].