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US House Speaker race: What potential impact will there be on Israel and peace with Saudi Arabia?

Both Reps. Steve Scalise and Jim Jordan – running to replace McCarthy – are big supporters of Israel; ALL ISRAEL NEWS also checked their record on Saudi Arabia

U.S. Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA) speaking at a press conference where House Republicans expressed their support for Israel, at the U.S. Capitol, July 19, 2023. (Photo: Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA)

When Kevin McCarthy lost his role as U.S. House speaker in an unprecedented vote earlier this week, his Israeli counterpart Amir Ohana was quick to thank him. His words were not just diplomatic gratitude, but a genuine appreciation of McCarthy’s leadership. 

“As Speaker of the House, he did more than any other to strengthen the bond between our legislatures,” wrote Ohana. In May, McCarthy became the first U.S. House speaker to address the Israeli parliament in 25 years.

“Our values are your values. Our heritage is your heritage. Our dreams are your dreams,” McCarthy told Israeli lawmakers. 

Now that the race is open to replace him, Israeli leaders hope the gavel will pass to another staunch supporter of the Jewish state. This is particularly important when a Saudi-Israeli peace deal is at stake, and as voices calling for American disengagement and defunding of foreign partners are growing louder on the fringes of both parties. 

So far, two Republican representatives have officially announced that they are running to succeed McCarthy. 

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio (R-OH), who serves as the chairman of the Judiciary Committee and is the co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus. Other GOP lawmakers rumored to potentially throw their hats in the ring are Kevin Hern of Oklahoma and Patrick T. McHenry (R-NC). 

Some hardline Republicans suggested that former U.S. President Donald Trump should take up the gavel. Trump said that he would be open to serve as speaker in the short term, as his main focus is dedicated to paving his way back to the White House. The 45th president is reportedly considering paying a visit to Capitol Hill next week to “unify the party” – a place he hasn’t visited since Jan. 6, 2021. 

Trump describes himself as “history’s most pro-Israel U.S. president.” Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he is “the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House.”

His decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem that came with a declaration of the holy city as Israel’s capital, recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Height and the signing of the historic Abraham Accords peace deals – all justify the superlatives. 

But would a House Speaker Trump, at this moment, serve Israel’s interest at best? 

Israel is currently working tirelessly with the Biden administration to promote a Saudi-Israeli an historic peace deal before the end of the year. Riyadh is expecting to receive U.S. assistance in developing civilian nuclear capabilities in exchange. It also demands a defense treaty that requires the approval of two-thirds of votes in the Senate.  

Israeli media outlets reported this week that there are real concerns in Jerusalem that Trump would try to influence Senate Republicans not to vote in favor of such a defense treaty. The former president could promise to deliver Congress a better deal, with softened demands, if he becomes president again.  

Jim Jordan’s record on Israel

Representative Jim Jordan has been very supportive of Israel. According to Haaretz, Jordan was among the first wave of Republican endorsements from AIPAC’s political action committee over his pro-Israel record. 

In 2020, he visited Israel, toured Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, and met with Netanyahu. More recently, he has met with Knesset Member Simcha Rothman, who is spearheading the controversial judicial reform in the country. 

In the beginning of the year, following a deadly terror attack, Jordan posted: “Pray for Israel. Stand with Israel. Always.” 

As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jordan is currently leading the impeachment inquiry against U.S. President Joe Biden. When Democratic representatives implied in the latest hearing that Hunter Biden’s foreign dealings pale in comparison to Jared Kushner’s dealings with Saudi Arabia, Jordan defended Trump’s son-in-law and former advisor. 

“Jared Kushner was a key player in the historic Abraham Accords," he stated. 

Steve Scalise’s record on Israel

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise has been calling out Biden for displaying hypocrisy toward Saudi Arabia since oil prices hiked. Last year, he slammed the president for traveling to Saudi Arabia to beg OPEC countries for oil instead of increasing domestic production by freeing up the industry from regulation.

“When he tried to call Saudi [Arabia] to produce more oil, they didn't even return his phone call. [President] Biden, you do not need to go to Saudi Arabia to find a way to produce more energy. It's right here in America!” Scalise said. 

Scalise is also a big supporter of the Jewish state and the Jewish people. In July, he applauded a resolution that stated Israel isn't a “racist or apartheid state,” after a House Democrat labeled it as such. 

"I think you have seen some growing antisemitism over the years and including coming from some members of Congress. And I think it's always important that we reiterate our strong support with our great ally Israel, and stand up to antisemitism wherever we see it," Scalise said.

He also celebrated the unique relationship between the two countries after Israeli President Isaac Herzog delivered an address to a special joint session of U.S. Congress to celebrate 75 years of Israeli independence.  

“This is something that we have always continued to work on, but to make sure that we're always working together – [the] United States and Israel – fighting common enemies, standing up against bad actors around the world,” Scalise said.

“I think we need to see stronger leadership from this President standing up against Iran's efforts to get a nuclear weapon. It's a threat to America. It's a threat to Israel. It's a threat to anybody who seeks freedom around the world, and there was no equivocation in the remarks of President Herzog,” the Louisiana politician added.

When Scalise was wounded in 2017, during a shooting that occurred at the annual Congressional Baseball Game in Virginia, Netanyahu called him as soon as he heard on the same day. He later gave Scalise an IDF Paratrooper’s red beret in appreciation of his support for Israel. 

Who is better for Israel? 

There is no daylight between the candidates for House speakership in their support for Israel. Each of them would bring a rich record of standing by the Jewish state to the role, as did former speaker McCarthy. 

Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.

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