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

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Top leaders in Congress proclaimed Israel’s right to self-defense.
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Vice President Joe Biden said that Israel “has a right to know—they’re at war with Hamas—has a right to know whether or not arms are being smuggled in.”

Congress Stands Up for Israel

While most of the world rushed to condemn Israel after its soldiers defended themselves against a brutal assault by “peace activists” aboard the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, many members of Congress, despite being away on recess, stood up for the Jewish state’s right to self-defense.

Congress is the only legislative body in the entire world whose members have openly and vocally backed Israel.

The following is a sample of statements from key leaders in Congress as well as the vice president. View more statements from senators and House members here.

Vice President Joe Biden

“[Y]ou can argue whether Israel should have dropped people onto that ship or not and the—but the truth of the matter is, Israel has a right to know—they’re at war with Hamas—has a right to know whether or not arms are being smuggled in. And up to now, Charlie, what’s happened? They’ve said, “Here you go. You’re in the Mediterranean. This ship—if you divert slightly north you can unload it and we’ll get the stuff into Gaza.” So what’s the big deal here? What’s the big deal of insisting it go straight to Gaza? Well, it’s legitimate for Israel to say, ‘I don’t know what’s on that ship. These guys are dropping eight—3,000 rockets on my people.’”

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)

Senate Majority Leader

“Israel is one of our strongest and most important allies, and the United States stands firmly with Israel at this critical time.

I deeply regret the loss of life in the flotilla incident, including the death of an American citizen.

Israel has an obligation to protect its citizens and therefore has a clear right under international law to prevent weapons from getting in the hands of terrorists determined to target them. Israel indicated it was willing to put in place a process to ensure that legitimate humanitarian relief reached Gaza. Unfortunately this offer was rejected. Israel has pledged to carry out a transparent and thorough investigation of this incident, and I look forward to its findings.”

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD)

House Majority Leader

“As we wait for all the facts to emerge about Monday’s events, several things are already clear. First, the loss of life was tragic. Second, Israel—rightfully so—invoked its right to self-defense on the Mavi Marmara. While the majority of ships in the flotilla—5 out of 6—reacted peacefully when approached by Israeli Defense Forces, activists on board the Mavi Marmara were clearly bent on a violent confrontation. They further chose this path despite two week’s worth of repeated warnings from Israel that the ship would not be allowed to come ashore, and despite Israel’s offer to instead receive the humanitarian goods at Ashdod, inspect them there for weapons, and ensure their distribution to Palestinians in Gaza. Finally, to the extent that this act was in protest of the Gaza blockade, let’s be clear: Hamas could end the blockade at any time by recognizing Israel’s right to exist, renouncing violence, and releasing Gilad Shalit.

The Administration and Congress are determined to prevent condemnation of Israel at the U.N. Security Council. In times of increased tension such as now, it is imperative that we not allow these events to distract from our main goals of achieving peace in the region and preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.”

Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)

House Republican Leader

“Israel has every right to defend itself against terrorists which threaten its very survival. The United States has no closer friend than Israel, and the American people stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Israelis. Unfortunately, while the international community has spent the past week condemning the Israelis, Iran has moved one step closer to building a nuclear bomb. The Obama Administration owes the American people and our allies around the world a comprehensive strategy designed to stop Iran from developing a nuclear capability, not to simply contain Iran once it already has one.”

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA)

House Republican Whip

“The irony is thick that again the likes of Saudi Arabia and Cuba come together under the UNHRC to lecture the United States and Israel about human rights. I commend the administration for its steadfast support of Israel in resisting another Goldstone-style U.N. investigation. These types of kangaroo courts have one goal, and that is to strip democratic nations of their rights to defend their citizens from terrorism. The United States must not lend its authority to any U.N. action to discredit our democratic ally and set back prospects for peace in the region, and I hope the Obama Administration remains committed to that principle.

As the facts trickle in and we learn more and more about the questionable nature of the crew aboard the Turkish-sponsored Marmara ship, it has become clear that it is false to characterize the nature of this mission as “humanitarian.” Rather, this was an attempt to provoke Israel, create international uproar and force an end to an Egypt-Israel blockade meant to stop Hamas from arming.

In keeping with its policy of delivering aid to the Palestinians, it is important to note that Israel is working to transfer the aid from the flotilla into Gaza. Yet the Hamas government, in the most cynical fashion, has blocked the aid from reaching their own people. Where is the international outrage?”

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY)

Chairwoman of the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee

“Israel has the right to inspect and reject illicit material being shipped to Gaza, which is controlled by a terrorist organization intent on destroying Israel and harming its people. The loss of life and injuries to flotilla participants and Israeli soldiers is regrettable. The international community should wait until the facts are known—including the actions of flotilla organizers and participants—before rushing to assign blame for this incident. This incident should not distract from the most pressing issues facing the international community—working cooperatively to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities, and developing a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)

Ranking member, House Committee on Foreign Affairs

“Israel has the right and the duty to defend itself and its citizens, including by seeking to inspect ships run by Islamist extremist groups. These extremists, suspected of financing jihadist groups, were seeking to enter Hamas-controlled Gaza despite repeated requests from the Israeli government not to do so.

Hamas, Hizballah and other Islamist militant groups have repeatedly used innocent civilians as human shields. They hide rockets and other weapons in homes, hospitals, and schools. With this in mind and given that the group running the ‘flotilla’ has ties to jihadist groups, Israel was compelled to search the cargo and passengers as a vital security measure.

Israeli soldiers had every right to defend their lives against a lynch mob attacking them with knives and clubs.

It is deeply troubling that the U.N.’s knee-jerk reaction was to immediately condemn and isolate Israel, particularly while still refusing to take concrete steps to stop Iran’s march toward a nuclear weapon.

The U.S. must stand with Israel against this diplomatic lynch mob and the threats posed to its security, and very existence, by Hizballah, Hamas, Iran and Syria.”

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