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Sen. Ron Johnson: Israel should ‘have jurisdiction’ over Gaza

Rep. Mark Pocan offered a different view of the escalating conflict between Israel and Gaza, which is entering its third month

Palestinians walk carrying bags as they pass destroyed buildings
Palestinians walk by the buildings destroyed in the Israeli bombardment on al-Zahra, on the outskirts of Gaza City, Friday, Oct. 20, 2023. Ali Mahmoud/AP Photo

Israel should gain full administrative authority over Gaza, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said in an interview with WPR’s “Central Time,” with Arab states absorbing more Palestinian refugees.

“I think at some point in time, Israel is just going to have to basically dictate and have jurisdiction over these lands, if they ever expect to have peace,” the Republican senator said.

“(Israel is) going to have to enforce laws, they’re going to have to weed out terrorists, and (if) Palestinians don’t like it, they ought to be open to go to other Arab states that hopefully would accept them,” he added.

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In a separate WPR interview, another member of Wisconsin’s delegation to Washington, Rep. Mark Pocan, a Democrat, expressed a divergent view on the war, calling the steep death toll of Palestinian civilians “collective punishment.”

Pocan called on the Israeli government to be more “surgical” in its response, arguing that extreme civilian death tolls are both unjustified and a potential incitement to involve neighboring countries or militant groups in the conflict.

“You can’t just take out 100 people in order to get one Hamas fighter,” he said. “I think some of this has been collective punishment, kind of anger at the Palestinian people in Gaza, over Hamas, but I think it’s been misdirected.”

The war began on Oct. 7 when Hamas militants entered Israel, taking hundreds of hostages and killing an estimated 1,200 people. Footage of the attacks also depict bodies that were brutalized and evidence of sexual violence.

Since then, an estimated 17,000 Palestinians have been killed, primarily in Israeli bombing campaigns, including thousands of children. About 1.8 million Palestinians have been displaced.

Pocan said his office has received thousands of phone calls from constituents calling for a ceasefire.

“People are watching this. They do see the imbalance of power. And they are concerned when kids in particular are killed during conflict,” he said.

Johnson, by contrast, said a ceasefire would give Hamas “breathing room” to regroup.

“Israel has to be allowed to destroy Hamas once and for all. They have to rid themselves of this threat,” he said, arguing that aid for Palestinian civilians would be hijacked and used by Hamas.

More than 100 of the Israeli hostages have been released, some of whom shared stories of beatings, torture and sexual abuse. More than 130 remain in captivity, and at least eight were killed in captivity, according to Israeli authorities.

Pocan said he sees a separate path out of the conflict: a revival of a two-state solution that would establish neighboring Israeli and Palestinian nations. That solution has been official U.S. policy for decades, but regional experts fiercely debate whether it remains a possibility after years of declining support from Israelis, Palestinians and their allies and supporters.

“I’ve heard more talk about a two-state solution than I have in the last decade,” Pocan said. “It’s certainly been a reinvigorated conversation, and that would be positive, if that could come out of this.”

Listen to the full interviews with Sen. Ron Johnson and Rep. Mark Pocan on Central Time.