Friends from New Jersey and across the country traveled to our nation’s capital last week in support of Israel for AIPAC’s annual policy conference. Amid a climate of partisan finger pointing and nastiness, I’m comforted seeing many Democrats, Republicans and Independents come together from around the country to reaffirm a strong and bipartisan relationship with our vital ally Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East and a critical strategic partner that is key to America’s security.
Unfortunately, bipartisanship regarding Israel is not something we can take for granted. Over the last several years, Israel has been used for political gamesmanship. I refuse to accept that, and I think it’s more important than ever that we remember Israel’s strategic importance to our country. As acts of anti-Semitism surge around the world, the stakes are too high. We need to send a clear message to the rest of the world that the United States stands firmly with our ally.
This was discussed on a panel I joined with new Jewish members of Congress on first impressions of Congress, alongside my Republican colleague Rep. David Kustoff and Democratic colleagues Reps. Jacky Rosen and Jamie Raskin.
I am personally committed to making sure that support for Israel in Congress remains strong on both sides of the aisle. From voting to object to the one-sided UN resolution, to making sure that the United States fulfills our obligation to fully fund cooperative security programs with Israel, there have already been several key votes on the House Floor reflecting bipartisan support.
Recently, I was asked to sign onto a letter affirming the importance of the two-state solution, which I support. The problem was that it was signed almost exclusively by Democrats. Even by today’s standards, a letter signed by 189 Democrats and only 2 Republicans can’t be considered bipartisan. So, while I agree with much of the letter’s content, I couldn’t bring myself to sign it.
We need to go the extra mile to work with members of both parties to keep the partisanship out. As a Jewish member of Congress, I am not afraid to say that the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is an anti-Semitic effort to punish the Jewish state. Congress must stand united in opposing these troubling efforts. Currently, I’m working with Republicans and Democrats to introduce legislation that gives states and municipalities the legal authority to choose not to do business with organizations that target Israel.
We must also remain vigilant in the face of Iran’s regional aggression and make sure they fully comply with both the letter and spirit of last year’s nuclear agreement. Just a few months into office, I met personally with Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer and Ambassador Dani Dayan, Consul General of Israel in New York, to discuss how the United States can best support our vital ally. As a result, I am leading U.S.-Israel joint missile defense legislation on Arrow 3 to protect Israel from Iranian ballistic missiles and Hezbollah’s more than 150,000 rockets aimed at Israel.
On the House Financial Services Committee’s Terrorism and Illicit Finance Subcommittee, I have made it my priority to go after Iran’s financing of terrorist organizations that seek to destabilize the Middle East. The United States should be leading the international community in holding Iran accountable for its illegal ballistic missile tests, which is why I am an early co-sponsor of the Royce-Engel Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Enforcement Act.
To all my friends and neighbors who care deeply about our relationship with Israel—let’s work together for this critical partnership with the only true democracy in the Middle East. That means not just speaking out, but also advocating for cooperation. It means being willing to engage those with different views about the best way forward for the United States and for Israel.
By Congressman Josh Gottheimer
Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-New Jersey), of Wyckoff, is in his first term as member of the House of Representatives from the fifth congressional district, which includes Bergen County and portions of Passaic, Essex and Warren Counties.