The U.N. General Assembly called Friday for a “humanitarian truce” between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, but a cease-fire isn’t an option for the Jewish nation, activist Boris Zilberman says.
If the Israel-Hamas war is put on pause, Zilberman says, Hamas terrorists will use the time “to retool.”
Zilberman, director of public policy and strategy at Christians United for Israel Action Fund since 2019, says Hamas still has “239 hostages, as young as 8 or 9 months old to ladies in their 70s and 80s.
But Hamas won’t succeed in using the hostages or the Palestinian people as human shields in the Gaza Strip, he says.
Zilberman joins this episode of “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss where the Israel-Hamas war stands after three weeks and how new House Speaker Mike Johnson is expected to lead Congress in supporting Israel.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Virginia Allen: It’s my pleasure today to be joined by Christians United for Israel Action Fund Director for Public Policy and Strategy Boris Zilberman. Thank you so much for being with us today.
Boris Zilberman: I’m glad to be here. Thanks for having me on.
Allen: Go ahead and just as we start talk a little bit about what Christians United for Israel does and specifically what the action fund does.
Zilberman: Christians United for Israel is the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States or in the world. It’s about 11 million strong. And that’s Christians United for Israel.
The action fund, where I work, is really the policy and legislative arm. We’re the (c)(4) where we are really on the Hill talking to diplomats, talking to staffers to figure all the bucket of issues that we work on, which is strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship, global threats that we see right now, whether it’s Iran and their proxies, kind of frenemies at best if you look at Turkey and Qatar and see their state sponsorship of Hamas.
And so we work on a kind of range of issues, really informing Christian Zionists around the country and the world about what’s going on on the Hill and how they can help to make sure that pro-Israel policies and pro-United States policies—because Israel is the key ally for the United States and the region. We’re stronger together. And so what folks can do when they talk to the legislature, when they’re back home or if they come up to D.C., it really makes a big difference.
Allen: Well, I have to imagine that the past three weeks have been pretty intense and pretty wild for Christians United for Israel’s Action Fund. What have some of those meetings looked like over the past three weeks as you guys have been going and speaking to our lawmakers about strengthening that relationship with Israel?
Zilberman: No, so, it’s a lot of, especially the immediate aftermath of the horrific massacre on Oct. 7 of over 1,400 Israelis, women, children, babies, just the most barbaric and gruesome images and videos that one could see. And so a lot of it is, “This is what happened,” because you see what we’re fighting and not just in their international arena, but also on campuses. We have a campfire on campus as well, is Holocaust denial in real time.
And thankfully, with exception of a few members, pro-Hamas members, you have the Hill kind of yearning for information, what’s happening, certainly in the aftermath, what was going on. And certainly right now, as far as what’s happening in Gaza, what could be happening in the North, there’s a simmering conflict that’s happening there now between Hezbollah and Hamas forces with Israeli forces on the northern border. Obviously, U.S. deployments to the region in the form of two carrier groups.
So really, kind of, “Here’s what’s happening.” And I guess we’re moving now to the next phase of, “Here’s how you can help,” obviously, with the aid package to Israel that’s going to work its way through Congress over the next few weeks. And a lot of it’s educational: “Here’s what’s happening and here are the threats that we need to be aware of.”
Allen: So critical. OK, you mentioned a lot there, so I want to unpack some of this. You talked about the conflict in the North. Just explain a little bit, right now, where are we seeing the major pockets of conflict and what are we seeing as it relates to action from the U.S.?
Zilberman: In the North, what we’re seeing is terror groups, whether it’s Hamas and Hezbollah, or Hamas has some, you know, Hezbollah is the dominant player and Lebanon, they, for all intents and purposes, control Lebanon. They are the political and military power there. They’ve got about 160,000 rockets and missiles pointed at Israel, an elaborate network of tunnels. I’ve been in some of the tunnels a couple years ago when I was in Israel that they built into, you know, solid kind of bedrock.
And so what you’re seeing is [unmanned aerial vehicle] attacks, rocket attacks, anti-tank attacks that killed one American Israeli from the D.C. area last week, unfortunately. And so you’re seeing this kind of trickle of attacks and Israel responding to the source of those attacks.
Allen: And in relation to what we know about the movement of U.S. troops, U.S. resources, what do we know in that regard right now that’s public?
Zilberman: As public as the U.S. has moved to carrier groups into the region, which was meant to really try to deter the Iranians. The Iranians so far haven’t been particularly deterred. Obviously, we haven’t seen a massive attack from Hezbollah yet. So to that degree, maybe it’s giving them some pause. But as far as Iranian proxy attacks on U.S. bases in Syria, in Iraq, those have been wrapping up.
We saw the U.S. take out an Iranian warehouse, basically, a facility in Syria. The U.S. has moved fighter jets and other aircraft and assets into the region to try to deter the Iranians. So far, it does not seem to be having them push back.
Allen: In relation to Congress and Congress’ action on this, of course, last week, Rep. Mike Johnson was elected speaker of the House. And the first piece of legislation to clear the House under Speaker Johnson was a resolution backing Israel and condemning Hamas. How do you think Johnson is going to lead the House of Representatives as it relates to support for Israel?
Zilberman: He’s got a big job on all fronts, but on this issue, it’s safe to categorize him as a Christian Zionist, somebody that I think believes in Genesis 12.3, that those who bless Israel will be blessed, basically—it obviously says a little more than that.
But I think he’s a Christian Zionist. He’s been to Israel. One of his first actions was to speak with the prime minister in Israel a couple nights ago, and they’re moving forward on a package. Obviously, how it gets done and dealing with the Senate and so on, how they come to a final package is to be seen yet.
But he’s somebody that is, in his time in Congress, has been a strong supporter of Israel. He, at the last moment, obviously, with his new job, went to the RJC convention in Las Vegas, which is a big convention where the Republican Jewish Coalition had mostly all of the presidential candidates. He came on last-minute notice, which was important.
So I think his heart is there and I think his actions are there as well. And so it’s just, how does this process work out and how does the sausage get made? On Capitol Hill, it’s not always pretty.
Allen: You mentioned the process going forward, what we might see this week. Do you have any thoughts on the timing of legislation? What it might look like? Financial support?
Zilberman: So you’ve got, obviously, the Senate is working, the Senate has a hearing tomorrow about Senate appropriations to figure out what their package looks like. Some group of Senate Republicans have introduced an emergency supplemental for the $14 billion that the administration worked out with Israelis of what they actually need—more Iron Dome; Iron Beam, which is kind of a laser anti-rocket system; other items that they’re going to need, armaments, mortars, rockets, bombs, things like that [they’re] going to need to fight this war and stave off, hopefully, a multifront war.
Showing this strength and having a strong bipartisan vote is going to be important to not just in the actual getting the funds there and getting the armaments there, but also showing the world that, hey, we’re united and backing Israel.
This is not a time to show weakness, basically. And so we really need to make sure that these are strong belts, that the message is sent that not only are we sending this equipment to Israel and giving them the wherewithal to fight this war, but also that the enemies of Israel and the enemies of the United States know that we’re not flinching on this. So that’s important.
And the House, they’re working on, I’ve heard multiple things now as far as what the package is going to look like, but I think, as these things go, it sure doesn’t start very pretty, and the process will work itself out and I think they’ll end up getting to a place where they can ensure that Israel is supported.
Allen: What have you made of President Joe Biden’s response and comments? Because honestly, I think a lot of conservatives have been pleasantly surprised to see that he has been pretty clear that America backs Israel. But what have your thoughts been on the president’s stance?
Zilberman: Look, I think he’s said a lot of the right things, leaving U.S. forces in the region. But the fact is, over his time in office and certainly back to his time as vice president for the Obama administration, it’s been too much appeasement of the Iranians. We’re seeing this kind of come home to roost where this is a regime in Tehran that is hellbent on destroying Israel.
And, you know, when people say they want to kill you, we should believe them. And when they keep, day after day, year after year, through their proxies themselves, work toward that goal, we need to confront it and not necessarily try to appease it or see if we can make a deal, send them $6 billion this time around, or the, you know, pallets of cash during the Obama administration. They’re not using that to build hospitals. They’re not using that to build roads. They’re using it to fund Hamas, Hezbollah, other proxy groups that are now attacking U.S. forces.
So words are good, but actions are better, is, I think, my kind of summation of the Biden approach.
Allen: What would you like to see from the president moving forward?
Zilberman: So, working with Congress to make sure this is worked out, this does not get stuck in the kind of D.C. mud that often happens when there’s challenging issues and things just get held up. So using some leadership on that. More leadership on what’s happening in the United States.
I mean, I think it’s really this kind of globalized intifada. What we’re seeing is very concerning. Kids are scared on campuses. Just this weekend at Cornell, they had to shut down a kosher food hall because on, I guess, one of their internal messaging systems for the university, there were gruesome death threats against Jews.
So everything that’s happening, some more leadership there, more definitive leadership on what’s happening here to secure Jewish communities here, to be very clear without any kind of meandering of what we’re trying to do.
But in the region, you know, I think at some point you have to show credible force that you’re not going to let Iran run roughshod over the region. I think you may not be interested in radical Islam, but radical Islam is interested in you.
I know that both the Obama administration and Biden administration have tried to pull out of the Middle East and tried to get back. That would be great. That would be great if the Middle East became Switzerland. But it’s not, and it spills over. You see how this is spilling over, whether it’s in Europe or in the United States. So those things that happen there don’t stay there.
Allen: Looking at this from a global perspective and response from nations around the world, we’ve seen calls from the U.N. for a cease-fire in the name of protecting civilian lives. Is a cease-fire a real option for Israel?
Zilberman: For Israel, I don’t think it’s a real option. You even had Hillary Clinton this weekend with Norah O’Donnell, I think, say it’s not an option, which was interesting. Because look, what they’re going to use that pause for, whatever pause is given, is a time for Hamas to retool. They still have 229, or 239—got revised this weekend—239 hostages as young as 8 or 9 months old to ladies in their 70s and 80s. And so you store these hostages, it gives them time to retool.
And I think the question for the national community, the U.N., is, you know, why isn’t—you know, Hamas is the one holding folks there. They’re not letting them leave. Egypt is not letting people leave. And so the question for the, you know, “international community” is, why is nobody interested in Palestinian refugees and taking them in? Why are they interested in keeping them there? And that’s to act as a human shield for Hamas. And that’s what you’re seeing happen there.
Unfortunately, what Oct. 7 showed the Israelis is … you can’t negotiate with them. You can’t hope that if they’re enriched somehow, they’ll put down their guns and put away their covenant, which they were founded with the covenant of the destruction of Israel. They’ll somehow be happy playing SimCity and building out Gaza to be what it could be if they were under a normal government and normal system. Could be a nice, functioning—you know, they’ve got beaches. If you look, they’ve got malls. They have the capability to be a normal place.
But now, when you’re run by a terrorist organization that is not interested in Palestinians—they’re the most anti-Palestinian people around, they’re interested only in the destruction of Israel. And unfortunately, that means that Israel has to go in there and clean them out and try to limit civilian deaths and so on.
But it’s very difficult when they’re hiding in kindergartens, they’re hiding under hospitals, as the [Israel Defense Forces] showed, where Hamas headquarters are under the major hospital in the area. And so it makes things very difficult and the U.N. and the international community are basically OK with it, OK with Palestinian suffering because they’re not really doing anything to root out the problem, which is Hamas.
Allen: Boris, thanks for your time today. I really appreciate it.
Zilberman: Thank you, Virginia. I appreciate you having me on.
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