NEAR EAST REPORT AIPAC'S BIWEEKLY ON AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST POLICY

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House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) spearheaded the House letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
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Gen. David Petraeus told Holocaust survivors that they have “made our country and our world better, leaving lasting achievements wherever they settled.”

Lawmakers Reaffirm U.S.-Israel Alliance

In a decisive display of bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for the U.S.-Israel relationship, 76 senators and 334 House members—more than 75 percent of Congress—have signed letters to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that urge the Obama administration to defuse the recent tension with Israel and reaffirm the strength of the U.S.-Israel alliance.

The Senate letter, sent on April 13, was spearheaded by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA). The House version, sent on March 26, was led by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA).

“We write to urge you to do everything possible to ensure that the recent tensions between the U.S. and Israeli administrations over the untimely announcement of future housing construction in East Jerusalem do not derail Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations or harm U.S.-Israel relations,” the Senate letter stated. “In fact, we strongly believe that it is more important than ever for Israel and the Palestinians to enter into direct, face-to-face negotiations without preconditions on either side.”

The letter reminded Clinton that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have stalled because the Palestinian Authority has increased its demands of the Jewish state. The letter also recalled Vice President Joe Biden’s comments while in Israel last month, when he said, “Progress occurs in the Middle East when everyone knows there is simply no space between the U.S. and Israel.”

The House letter emphasized many of the same points that appeared in the Senate version. “We recognize that, despite the extraordinary closeness between our country and Israel, there will be differences over issues both large and small,” the House letter read. “Our view is that such differences are best resolved quietly, in trust and confidence, as befits longstanding strategic allies.” BACK TO TOP

Hoyer and Cantor Find Common Ground on Israel

Last week, Hoyer and Cantor appeared together on Wolf Blitzer’s The Situation Room. The two Congressional leaders spent much of their air time discussing economic issues—and agreed on very little.

But when the CNN host changed the subject to the U.S.-Israel alliance, he identified an issue that brings together Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

“There is one issue both of you agree on,” Blitzer stated. “That is U.S.-Israeli relations.”

Hoyer concurred. “I think that we need to treat Israel for what it is,” he said. “Our closest ally in the Middle East, one of our closest friends in the world. And when we have those differences [they] need to be discussed, in my opinion, in private.”

Blitzer then mentioned the bipartisan letter to Clinton, signed by 333 House members, and asked Cantor for his reaction.

“I stand side-by-side with and salute the leadership of Steny Hoyer on the precedent of U.S. Israel relationship,” Cantor said. “I think it is very clear to most Americans that Israel’s security is synonymous with our own. We have a lot of struggle out there in this world, and we are in an ideological fight with the spread of radical Islam.” BACK TO TOP

General Petraeus Lauds U.S.-Israel Alliance

The Senate letter was sent to Clinton on the same day that Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, said that Israel “is, has been, and will be an important strategic ally of the United States.” Petraeus was speaking at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington think tank.

Later that week, Petraeus was the keynote speaker at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum commemoration in the Capitol Rotunda. “The men and women who walked or were carried out of the death camps, and their descendants, have enriched our world immeasurably in the sciences and in the arts, in literature and in philanthropy,” Petraeus said.

“They have made extraordinary contributions in academia, in business, and in government. And, they have, of course, helped build a nation that stands as one of our great allies. The survivors have, in short, made our country and our world better, leaving lasting achievements wherever they settled.” BACK TO TOP