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Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt visits Israel 'in a show of solidarity' amid war with Hamas

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a trip to Israel.
Gov. Kevin Stitt's Office
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a trip to Israel.

Gov. Kevin Stitt traveled to Israel on Thursday to show support for the Jewish people amid the country’s war against Hamas militants.

Stitt and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials and planned to visit a hospital in Tel Aviv to meet with families affected by the ongoing conflict that has killed more than 9,000 people.

“Gov. Stitt and Gov. Abbott traveled to Israel in a show of solidarity to our allies as well as an opportunity to discuss future partnerships between Israel and our states as they rebuild,” Stitt spokesperson Abegail Cave said in an email.

Private funding covered the costs of the trip, she said.

The Governor’s Office did not respond to a question about how long Stitt would be overseas. The Oklahoman,which broke the news of the trip, reported Stitt and Abbott would be in Israel for about 12 hours.

Abbott’s office said the trip was coordinated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel and the Consulate General of Israel to the Southwest.

Stitt has been outspoken in his support of Israel since Hamas militants killed about 1,400 and took at least 200 hostages in an Oct. 7 attack. Israel responded to the attack by launching numerous airstrikes on Gaza, killing thousands. Israeli officials have said they aim to destroy the terrorist group.

Shortly after the attack, Stitt ordered state entities to lower flags to half-staff and lit the state Capitol blue to in a show of support for Israel.

“I am praying along with all Oklahomans for peace and safety for the Israeli people,” he said in an October video posted on social media. “Here in Oklahoma, we stand in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters.”

Showing up in person to offer support is important, said Edie Roodman, executive director of the Oklahoma Israel Exchange. The group aims to promote goodwill and partnerships between the state and Israel and plans yearly mission trips to the country. The exchange has helped coordinate trips for former Oklahoma governors and other prominent figures to visit Israel.

Stitt was scheduled to take an eight-day trip to the country this month but that was canceled after the Oct. 7 attack, Roodman said.

“I think it’s very important that governors across the country stand up and show their support for Israel,” she said. “As the images of what Hamas did on Oct. 7 fade, it’s even more important that we are very vocal about support for Israel and what they’re doing to eliminate Hamas.”

Adam Soltani, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Stitt’s blanket statements of support for Israel don’t help Oklahomans understand the complexity of the situation in the Middle East.

He said Stitt would be better off focusing on issues closer to home rather than involving himself in foreign policy.

“I don’t understand the purpose of a trip like this, for Oklahoma’s governor to pledge support to a foreign country, when there are so many problems, so many challenges, so many issues right here in Oklahoma,” Soltani said.

Stitt also is ignoring the concerns of his Muslim, Arab and Palestinian constituents, he said.

Soltani, who supports a cease-fire in Gaza, blamed Israel for the death of more than 8,000 Palestinians killed in the region, more than five times the number of Israelis killed in the conflict.

He compared the situation to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, in which a white mob destroyed an affluent Black neighborhood.

“Imagine that same thing happened today,” Soltani said. “Ten thousand white people storm into a Black area … and burn it to the ground, and then the governor goes and stands with the white people who burned it down and says, ‘I stand with you so you can rebuild.’”

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, both Democrats, also visited Israel in recent weeks.

Mere days after President Joe Biden traveled to Israel last month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whom Stitt endorsed for president, said it’s not “productive” for American politicians to visit the country amid the war because they’ll just get in the way. DeSantis said he had no plans to visit Israel, although he has sent aid to the country.

Oklahoma Voice is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oklahoma Voice maintains editorial independence.

Carmen covers state government, politics and health care for Oklahoma Voice. A Norman native, she previously worked in Arizona and Virginia before she began reporting on the Oklahoma Capitol.
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