By Theresa Opeka
U.S. Sen. Ted Budd, R-NC, says he remains committed to securing the freedom of North Carolina native Keith Siegel and the remaining nine American hostages illegally held by Hamas terrorists.
In an update Tuesday for the press, Budd said Congress was greeted with some good news recently when some American hostages were released, including Siegel’s wife, Aviva, but Keith remains a hostage. Budd said Qatar has been at the center of the hostage negotiations, with Hamas leaders living safely in the country’s capital city of Doha.
“We’ve watched Hamas leaders use Qatar’s hospitality to buy time prolonging the war and the hostage crisis from the comfort of their luxury accommodations while Palestinians suffer in Gaza because of the war that Hamas started,” Budd said. “We’ve seen the Hamas leaders push their genocidal agenda from Doha, including multiple meetings with Iran’s foreign minister and even a trip to Moscow. Our message to the Qatari government is very simple: stop this now.”
He also called on Qatar to extradite the Hamas leadership to the United States after the hostage crisis is resolved to face justice for the killing and kidnapping of Americans.
Budd said he met with the Qatari ambassador last month in the office and told him that his government must pressure Hamas leaders living in their country to immediately and unconditionally release all of the hostages. He said it’s time to stop stalling and playing games.
“I’ve met with the families of hostages right here in Washington, heard their stories, and look at their photos every day on my desk, and every day that these families have to live with the pain and uncertainty is simply unacceptable,” he said.
He said while he can’t discuss Keith Siegel’s condition or his location, he does credit the State Department for doing a great job helping get the freed hostages home, working with law enforcement, and repatriating the families.
Budd was asked how concerned he was about tensions mounting against the U.S. when a U.S. drone strike killed five Iran-backed militia members who were preparing an attack on Dec. 3 near Kirkuk, Iraq, the Navy destroyer USS Carney shooting down three drones launched by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen the same day and missiles that were fired about a week ago from Yemen toward the Navy’s USS Mason and if that further complicates matters for the U.S. and getting the hostages home, along with concern about needing additional military support from North Carolina military bases.
“I think what’s allowing this to escalate is weak responses from the Biden administration,” Budd replied. “What they need to do is shift strength, and the stronger we are on the world stage, the safer we are here at home, and this actually is a byproduct, the safer the world is. So these tepid responses have allowed, I think it’s over 80 now of tax of these Iranian proxies, and that’s completely because of very weak responses.”
He said he doesn’t believe the Iranians want a full-scale war, but the U.S. has to make sure that it doesn’t escalate into that, and the way you escalate it is you give weak responses from the U.S.
“It’s peace through strength,” he said. “It worked through Reagan. it worked through President Trump, and it can work again.”
When asked about further funding for Israel in their fight against Hamas, Budd said there will be discussions over the next two weeks. U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer has advanced a shell bill that could contain the supplemental funds. He also thinks there will be a test vote on that.
But while he does consider Israel as one of our greatest allies, Budd said before American taxpayer dollars are sent overseas, we have to secure our southern borders.
“We’ve had dozens and dozens, I mean it’s approaching 100 now of those that are on the Terrorist Watch List that have come across our southern border,” he said. “We’re looking cumulatively over the Biden Administration around 8 million people that have come across illegally, and again, we have to remember that we are for legal immigration, but not illegal immigration, and it’s just been runaway lawlessness at the southern border at a tremendous humanitarian cost.
A reporter asked Budd why can’t the U.S. fund Israel, along with securing the southern border at the same time.
“We can do two things at one time, but let’s do that one thing, which is the southern border, so that’s not being included in a meaningful way,” Budd stated. “The worst part is to say that they have done border security with no meaningful legislation, no meaningful policy. The times that I’ve been at the southern border, it’s three times I’ve met with agents down there, and then they say yes, of course we need actual security, we need a wall, but beyond that, what we really need is policy, and they don’t have policy in this administration or at least nothing that’s been enforced.”
Budd wrapped up the call by saying that although he hasn’t met with Aviva yet, they are celebrating that she’s back with family.
“That’s the most important thing, especially in this season between Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas, as we want to be very mindful of the importance of family right now,” he said.
He stressed that he wants the American hostages to know that they aren’t forgotten.
“I want those Americans to know that they’re not forgotten in our office, other offices, the State Department,” he added. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure the Israelis are doing what they can, and that they’re (hostages) remembered so we get them home and they’re in our prayers. So if you’re inclined to pray, please do so because we want them home.”