Republican Karen Handel sharpened her foreign policy stance over the weekend with fresh criticism of the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran and a vow to support legislation that could cut off funding to the Palestinian Authority.
At a Jewish War Veterans meeting Sunday in Dunwoody, Handel pledged her unequivocal support to the Taylor Force Act, which would end U.S funding of the Palestinian government if it continues to provide stipends to families of convicted murderers and terrorists.
“Why on Earth (do) we give money to organizations that sponsor terrorism?” she said, saying she hopes for a chance to vote on the measure should she defeat Democrat Jon Ossoff in the June 20 runoff to represent Georgia’s 6th District.
She also was critical of the deal struck by the U.S. that would wind down international economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for an agreement to reduce its uranium enrichment and plutonium production. She called provisions of the program, including reports of cash payouts, “unconscionable.”
Ossoff, vying for an upset in the conservative-leaning suburban Atlanta district, told the same group he supported NATO alliances and other strategic measures to protect U.S. allies. And he said he would “redouble efforts” to staunch the flow of funding to Hizbollah and other terrorist groups.
But he took a critical view of any military intervention that would send more ground troops to the Middle East or other hotspots, saying he worried about being “drawn into another quagmire.”
The only way to assure “complete destruction” of the Islamic State, he said, is through air power and limited use of special operations forces.
Ossoff said he would “oppose any proposal to increase the deployment of regular U.S. ground forces and to be drawn into another quagmire.” Invoking the Iraq war, he criticized the “cavalier attitude” of politicians weighing whether to declare war.
“When the decision was made to enter that conflict, policymakers in Washington were not considering the physical and mental trauma imposed on those doing the war fighting,” he said, adding that as a congressional aide he aimed to increase treatment and resources for soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The weekend events also included a Saturday meet-and-greet for Handel with a pair of Republican military veterans, Reps. Brian Mast and Will Hurd, who encouraged conservatives to rally behind her campaign.
The race to represent the district, which spans from east Cobb to north DeKalb, is an early test of President Donald Trump’s popularity and a dry run for next year’s midterm elections. The territory has been in Republican hands for decades, but Democrats hope Ossoff can trigger a wave of upsets.
Handel drew particular focus to her stance on the Taylor Force Act, named after a former U.S. Army officer killed by a Palestinian assailant in Israel last year. About 8 percent of the district’s residents are Jewish, and many have traditionally voted Democratic.
“It’s commonsense,” she said of her support for the legislation after her speech. “Why would we pay money to the very people who are killing our own citizens, and citizens of our allies?”
The legislation has widespread Republican support, but Democrats and some Trump aides have been more skeptical over concerns that it could undermine the regime of the Palestinian Authority even as the U.S. tries to revive peace talks between the two enemies.
Ossoff said he was receptive to the measure, though he stopped short of support in an interview after his remarks.
“It’s unacceptable for U.S. aid to flow to anyone responsible for the death of Israelis,” he said. “Aid is leverage and I’d be interested to work with the State Department and the government of Israel to ensure that no U.S. aid that flows to the PA finds its way to the families of those that have killed Israelis.”