Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Monday she’s “unequivocally supportive of Israel” after drawing backlash from critics who contended one of her weekend social media posts about Hamas’ attack on the Jewish state was too vague.
Asked if she regretted the post, Whitmer told reporters at an event in downtown Grand Rapids that her Saturday message on the platform X, formerly known as Twitter, came as the “serious” situation in Israel was “evolving.”
“I am grateful that I’ve got so many wonderful friends and counsel in the Jewish community who keep me apprised, and I’m unequivocally supportive of Israel,” Whitmer said. “And they have a right to defend themselves.”
Hamas, a militant group that governs the Gaza Strip, launched an attack on Israel over the weekend, spurring a military response from Israel. By Monday, the Associated Press reported about 700 people, including 73 soldiers, had been killed in Israel. Meanwhile, the Gaza Health Ministry said 493 people, including 78 children and 41 women, were killed in the territory, the AP reported.
Israel’s rescue service said Monday it had retrieve 260 bodies from the grounds of an open-air music festival that Hamas attacked in what’s being described as the country’s worst civilian massacre ever, AP reported Monday.
At 5:34 p.m. Saturday, as the attack was making international headlines, Whitmer posted on X, “I have been in touch with communities impacted by what’s happening in the region. It is abhorrent. My heart is with all those impacted. We need peace in this region.”
The post immediately spurred criticism on social media for not mentioning Israel by name or the specifics of the situation, which included the taking of civilian hostages. The post also didn’t name the region she was referring to.
“Why even issue a statement if this is the best you can do?” replied Tim Murtaugh, who was director of communications for former President Donald Trump’s unsuccessful reelection campaign in 2020.
Aryeh Lightstone, former senior adviser to David Friedman, who served as U.S. ambassador to Israel under Trump, also denounced Whitmer’s initial post.
“I hosted you for Thanksgiving in Israel just a few years ago,” Lightstone wrote to Whitmer. “I am embarrassed for you and by you & disappointed that I opened my home and my family to you.
Less than three hours after her initial post, Whitmer sent out a new and more specific message: “The images that continue to come out of Israel on the anniversary of the Yom Kippur War are devastating. The loss of lives in Israel — children and families — is absolutely heartbreaking and appalling. There is no justification for violence against Israel. My support is steadfast.”
Palestinian militant groups claimed to be holding over 130 people abducted in Israel and dragged into Gaza, the AP reported Monday. The State Department said at least nine American citizens have been killed in the weekend Hamas attacks on Israel, raising the toll from four, according to the AP.
Whitmer took questions from reporters after a panel discussion on abortion rights at Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids.
The governor said there had been a “massive loss of life” in Israel.
“It’s heartbreaking to see this happening and the images coming out of Israel,” she added.
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