Jul 18, 2012

Support for Israel Brings a Divided Congress Together

Patrick GoodenoughBy Patrick Goodenough
CNS News

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Briefly setting aside divisions over a multitude of issues, Republican and Democratic lawmakers Tuesday came together in a strong show of support for legislation reaffirming and strengthening America’s security relationship with Israel.

By voice vote, the House of Representatives passed a bill that expands military and civilian cooperation with Israel, including joint missile-defense projects, authorizes an increase in the U.S. stockpile of military equipment in Israel, and extends current loan guarantees to Israel for a further four years.

Benjamin Netanyahu

Israel Enjoys Broad Support Among U.S. Lawmakers

The United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act (S. 2165) states that it is U.S. policy to reaffirm commitment to Israel’s security “as a Jewish state,” to encourage Israel’s neighbors to recognize its “right to exist as a Jewish state,” and to help Israel in “its ongoing efforts to forge a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that results in two states living side-by-side in peace and security.”

It also pledges to veto “one-sided anti-Israel resolutions” in the U.N. Security Council, and encourages an expanded role for Israel in NATO, “including an enhanced presence at NATO headquarters and exercises.”

NATO-Israel cooperation has been compromised in recent years as part of NATO member Turkey’s determined drive to punish and isolate Israel over a rancorous bilateral dispute.

S. 2165, which passed the Senate by voice vote on June 29, now goes to President Obama’s desk for signature.

Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, calls for strong support came from the bill’s main sponsors, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, (R-Va.), Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, (D-Md.), Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, (R-Fla.) and ranking member Howard Berman (D-Calif.).

Hoyer addressed the bipartisan nature of the measure. “It is so encouraging to see that even while we may divide on other matters, this House will pass the legislation before us with strong, overwhelming bipartisan support,” he said.

“That sends a message that hopefully cannot be missed, a clarity of purpose expressed by this Congress, the policy-making body of this nation that speaks for all the people of our nation. Hopefully, those who would pose a threat and risk to us and to our allies would take note of that unanimity of purpose.”

Hoyer argued that “a strong Israel is in America’s national security interest,” and others similarly stressed the view that Israel and America’s security and interests are deeply intertwined.

“Our investment in Israel’s security is an investment in American security,” said Cantor, while Ros-Lehtinen said “our fates are tied together” and Berman stated that the two allies “face many of the same threats and we share the same values.”

Chief among the shared threats, several lawmakers stressed, was the one posed by Iran.

"Iran’s leaders have already threatened American targets in that part of the world," said Hoyer. “It is important to note that there are some 250,000 Americans within the range of Iranian missiles.”

"Enhanced security cooperation with Israel is one of the many tools we have to help prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weaponization and to protect American assets in the region."

The bill passed Tuesday is based on a House version first passed last May by a 411-2 vote (the “nays” came from Texas Republican Ron Paul and Michigan Democrat John Dingell).

When the Senate considered the bill—introduced by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and supported by 72 co-sponsors—it added authorization for an increase in the U.S. stockpile of military equipment in Israel.