Graham, Netanyahu plan visit Making Mideast stops ahead of campaign kickoff

Sen. Lindsey Graham

Less than a week before he announces his White House bid, Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham will travel to Jerusalem to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday.

The visit comes as Graham has been a leading voice for Israel throughout his Senate career — an advocacy that has continued during his presidential run-up through appeals to the Jewish community in the United States.

“America is not going to make the mistakes of the ’30s,” Graham said during a February speech at Charleston’s Brith Sholom Beth Israel Synagogue where he discussed ISIS, Iran and other regional terror groups.

“We’re not going to sit on the sidelines and let the Jewish people be destroyed,” he added.

Graham, R-S.C., and a ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is traveling solo for the trip. His office said the visit is in line with his stance of warning about the global dangers of allowing Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.

The trip isn’t the first time that Graham has sided closely with Netanyahu. He was among the wide array of Republicans in Congress who were supportive of Netanyahu’s March speech to a joint session of Congress. The speech was put together by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, angering the White House because it was done without consulting President Barack Obama.

Graham used the Netanyahu address to draw a mostly pro-Israel crowd to a Capitol Hill fundraiser to benefit his presidential exploratory committee, Strength Through Security. At least 200 people attended, paying between $1,000 and $2,700 each.

The White House did not immediately respond Tuesday for a request for comment about Graham’s overseas agenda.

Graham’s meeting with Netanyahu will be in the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem. Netanyahu and Graham are scheduled to make statements to the press, though it was not immediately clear if the statements would come before or after the session.

Graham earlier this month listed eight principles the U.S. should follow in its negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program to ensure a “sound, enforceable deal.” Among them is “anytime, anywhere inspections of all Iranian military and nonmilitary facilities.”

Graham is on a tour of the Middle East that over the Memorial Day weekend/Senate recess also included a stop in Afghanistan. He is not due back in the U.S. until Sunday, when the Senate reconvenes, his office said. He will formally announce his White House bid on Monday in his hometown of Central, in the Upstate near Clemson.

Graham isn’t the only GOP hopeful reaching out to Netanyahu. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker visited Israel earlier this month, meeting with the prime minister, as well.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.