HONG KONG — California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that his visit to Israel over the weekend strengthened his sympathy for Israelis reeling from Hamas’ attacks earlier this month.
“It was at a deeper emotional level, just the trauma and the experience,” he told reporters in Hong Kong, where he arrived Sunday, in his first public remarks since his visit. “It allows me to absorb what’s happening there very differently now. It’s not an intellectual exercise.”
The Democratic governor met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli President Isaac Herzog, other top Israeli officials and survivors of the Oct. 7 attacks during a 10-hour stop in Tel Aviv on Friday on his way to China for a weeklong trip on climate policy.
He said he met with a young shooting survivor and was shown graphic videos of beheadings that have been blocked in the West.
“The worst part about it — the actual video, I saw heads, beheaded people, their bodies, lay there, dead. To see someone’s eyes and mouth being poked to see if they were alive, to find out they were alive after being shot on the ground,” he said. “It connects to an understanding of the emotion of the Israelis about the atrocities that occurred, and about the 1,400 lives lost. It’s not intellectual any longer.”
The war is entering its third week, with more than 4,600 civilian deaths in Gaza as of Sunday. The attack from Hamas and Israel’s response have split Democrats, with some progressives, including Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), calling for a ceasefire.
Newsom said he didn’t have time to travel to Gaza but that he was working with U.S. officials and NGOs to get medical supplies to the region, “separately and above the aid we’re providing for Israel.”
When asked if he spoke with any Israeli leaders about a ceasefire, he said the trip was “limited in scope.”
“I wish I was president of the United States,” he said sarcastically, before clarifying that he was joking. “I could start doing all those things.”