U.S. Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., met with Israel’s president and prime minister during his first visit ever to the country he has staunchly supported.

Fetterman has been one of Israel’s biggest supporters in Congress, pleasantly surprising conservatives who disparaged him as he entered the public view as a progressive. As a result, he’s faced pushback from progressives, but Fetterman has resisted the progressive label in recent years.

Before this trip, the Pennsylvania senator, who is not Jewish, had never been to Israel.

“We’ve been through dark times in these months of anguished war, and during that time I can say that Israel has had no better friend than Sen. John Fetterman,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video posted Wednesday to X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. Fetterman wore a white hoodie and a Nova Music Festival wristband given to him by a family of a victim of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. He clasped his hands as he stood beside Netanyahu, who was clad in a suit and tie. An American flag and Israeli flag hung side by side behind the two men.

“I want to thank you for your courageous statements that show moral clarity and moral courage, and you just say it the way it is,” Netanyahu said in the video. “And we appreciate this friendship at all times, but especially at these times.”

“We stand with Israel through this and I’m so sorry for what’s been done to this nation,” Fetterman said.

While the senator’s devout support for Israel has become a much larger part of his political persona since Oct 7, his support for the Middle East ally didn’t start then. While campaigning for his 2022 Senate primary, he told the publication Jewish Insider that he would “lean in” on supporting the alliance. Other political allies of Israel have begun to draw lines in the sand as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza worsens, but Fetterman’s support has remained unconditional.

Fetterman also met with Israel President Isaac Herzog. Herzog said in a post on X on Tuesday that he appreciated Fetterman wearing the Nova wristband, from the outdoor music festival near the Gaza border where hundreds of people were killed Oct. 7, as well as his demands for the release of hostages held by Hamas.

“You are a beacon of moral clarity as we fight to defend the free world against true evil,” the post said.

___

©2024 The Philadelphia Inquirer, LLC. Visit at inquirer.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.c