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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and his Republican colleague, Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC), introduced a Senate resolution last week to support Israel, timed to coincide with the America Israel Public Affairs Committee Conference in Washington. The resolution assures Israel that America will back here if she must go to war with Iran. The Senator, seeking to have AIPAC members lobby for the resolution in Congress, did not mention the forced sequestration cuts to Israel—approximately $150 million. The Senator, as well as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, have reaffirmed their commitment to prevent cuts to the Iron Dome, Arrow and David’s Sling anti-missile systems. Many of these Israeli cuts will have their effect on their American partners and the U.S. economy in states like Georgia, where military planes are refurbished.

JTA reports that another bi-partisan resolution was also introduced in House—just in time for the AIPAC conference—by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), that would make Israel a “major strategic ally,” a one of a kind designation. According to JTA, “The ‘major strategic ally’ bill codifies a number of existing facets of the relationship between the U.S. and Israel, including annual defense assistance and cooperation on missile defense, energy research and cyber security.” This special status is one way Congress hopes to protect Israel from the sequestration cuts.

Critics say the resolutions could further destabilize the region, affect the global economy and push Iran even harder to create their own nuclear weapons. According to the Israeli newspaper, Yediot Acharanot, Menendez and Graham hope to see the resolution accepted before Obama’s spring visit to Israel.

Graham, who serves on the Senate’s Committee on Armed Services, said “No one wants another conflict anywhere in the world militarily, but we also don’t want a nuclear-capable Iran. Menendez said he would prefer to achieve progress with Iran through negotiation and not military action, but noted that “we will not talk for talking sake.”

“This is not a green light to Israel to do anything other than defend itself (and a promise that) we will be there,” Graham said at the press conference on Capitol Hill, and added that, “We have no better friends in that part of the world than Israel. Last year President Obama told the people of Israel, ‘We have your back.’ Our resolution builds upon that statement and makes it clear that if Israel is one day forced to protect themselves we will stand with Israel.”

The resolution states if Israel is “compelled to take military action in self-defense, the United States government should stand with Israel and provide diplomatic, military, and economic support to the government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence.”

The resolution also declares that the United States has a vital national interest in and unbreakable commitment to the State of Israel.

At press time, the resolution had been signed by Democrats Sen. Chuck Schumer from New York, Sen. Bob Casey from Pennsylvania, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut. Republicans who have so far signed the resolution are Sen. Susan Collins from Maine and Sen. John Hoeven from North Dakota. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire), and John Cornyn (R-Texas).

In related news, The Washington Post reports that the police in the Dominican Republic and the FBI have cleared Senator Menendez of recent allegations that were made against him there.

By Jeanette Friedman