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

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Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) spearheaded a House letter that urged Egypt to uphold its peace treaty with Israel.
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Lawmakers have emphasized the importance of helping Israel maintain its qualitative military edge in the Middle East. Israel is America’s most important ally in the region.
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Amb. Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., voted against the anti-Israel U.N. Security Council resolution. The U.S. was the only country to vote against the measure.

Congress Stands Up for Strong
U.S.-Israel Relationship

While there has been much change in the Middle East and North Africa in 2011, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have mobilized in recent weeks in order to ensure that the United States supports its closest ally in the region: Israel.

Calling on Egypt to Maintain Peace Treaty with Israel

The abrupt end of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule sent shockwaves across the region. While much of the world is focused on Egypt’s future, the United States and Israel are especially concerned about any new Egyptian government’s commitment to maintaining the peace treaty with Israel.

As such, members of the House are circulating a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that urges all branches of the U.S. government to emphasize to prospective Egyptian leaders and opposition figures the importance of Egypt’s international obligations, specifically its peace treaty with Israel.

The bipartisan letter, spearheaded by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), recognizes the role Egypt has played over the last few decades in maintaining peace with Israel, opposing an Iran with a nuclear weapons capability, ensuring freedom of navigation through the Suez Canal and more.

As of this writing, the letter has 320 signatories.

“As Americans who have enjoyed the fruits of liberty, we fully support the Egyptian people as they begin the difficult journey to democracy and self-rule,” Rep. McMorris Rodgers said in a statement. “Having said that, the next Egyptian government—whatever final form it takes—must continue to stand against Islamic terrorism and honor its treaty obligations with Israel which have kept the peace between those two nations for over thirty years.”

Backing Security Assistance to Israel

As Congress looks for ways to cut the federal budget and some members threatened across-the-board reductions, lawmakers made it clear that the United States would fully fund President Obama’s request of $3 billion in security assistance for Israel and $205 million for the Iron Dome rocket defense system in fiscal year 2011.

The requested aid marks the third year of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), signed by President Bush in 2007 and supported by President Obama, that would provide $30 billion in security assistance to Israel over the course of ten years.

To show their support for aid to Israel, 67 freshmen Republican House members on Feb. 16 delivered a strong statement to their leaders. In a letter addressed to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the new GOP members voiced strong support for full funding of aid to Israel in fiscal year 2011.

The letter, which was spearheaded by Reps. Bob Dold (R-IL) and Austin Scott (R-GA), states that the lawmakers’ support for Israel’s security assistance rests on their “recognition that the national security of the United States is directly tied to the strength and security of the State of Israel.”

“As Israel faces threats from escalating instability in Egypt, Hezbollah rockets in Lebanon, Hamas terrorists in Gaza and the existential danger by Iran’s nuclear program, U.S. security assistance to Israel, including funding to support Israel’s deployment of the Iron Dome rocket defense system, has never more important for our own national security interests.”

Democrats also issued strong statements in support of aid to Israel.
“Israel is the only democratic nation in the Middle East and one of our most stalwart allies,” said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), who serves as ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. “A stable and secure Israel is in our national security interest and has been a staple of our foreign policy for more than sixty years. Using our budget deficit as a reason to abandon Israel is inexcusable.”

Urging the U.S. to Veto an Anti-Israel Security Council Resolution

When members of Congress learned that the U.N. Security Council was considering a resolution that condemned Israel for housing construction in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, they issued statements and wrote letters calling on the Obama administration to veto it.

Support for the resolution would be “a major concession to enemies of the Jewish state and other free democracies,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). “It telegraphs that the U.S. can be bullied into abandoning critical democratic allies and core U.S. principles.”

The committee’s ranking member, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), agreed. “The United States should veto any resolution that endangers our allies in the region and threatens the future of the peace process,” Berman said. “We must stand with Israel and veto this resolution in the United Nations Security Council.”

Members of the Senate expressed similar sentiments. “There is no alternative but to veto the resolution the Palestinians are proposing at the UN; to do anything else would be to turn our back on our strongest ally in the Middle East and, in fact, to embolden anti-Israel forces in the region,” said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ).

Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) said, “We cannot allow the UN to divide the United States and Israel, particularly not at a time of such upheaval and uncertainty in the Middle East. Allies must stand together and we must do all that is possible to protect our shared values and joint national interests.”

[Click here to read a complete list of congressional statements about the U.N. resolution.]

Lebanon, one of 15 Security Council members, introduced the resolution on Feb. 18. The measure was strongly backed by the Palestinian Authority (PA). Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, vetoed the resolution. The United States was the only country out of 15 Security Council members to vote against the measure. The other 14 members voted in favor. BACK TO TOP