Congress Backs Israel

Lawmakers show support for embattled Jewish state as rockets continue to fall
AP

AP

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Members of Congress are standing with Israel as it wages a defensive war against Palestinian terrorists who in recent days have fired hundreds of rockets at citizens of the Jewish state.

The bipartisan consensus among U.S. lawmakers is that Israel has the right to defend itself from terror attacks which have already killed three Israelis and wounded several others.

The Senate late Thursday passed a resolution affirming Israel’s “right to act in self-defense.”

The measure authored by Sens. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) goes on to express “vigorous support and unwavering commitment to the welfare, security, and survival of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state with secure borders, and recognizing and strongly supporting its right to act in self-defense to protect its citizens against acts of terrorism,” the Hill reported.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) praised the Senate resolution.

“These statements demonstrate that America continues to firmly stand with Israel and her right to defend herself,” AIPAC said in a statement. “No nation can tolerate constant barrages of rockets against its civilian population.”

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren praised on Friday the “outstanding support” Israel has received on Capitol Hill and elsewhere.

Oren confirmed to reporters in a conference call Friday that terrorist rockets had struck both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. This is the first time terrorists have been able to reach these areas.

“Today’s rocket fire on Jerusalem is an escalation … and we will respond accordingly,” Oren told reporters. “We will take all and every means to defend our citizens. We don’t rule out any measures.”

Oren said the Israeli Air Force has carried out more than 440 missions in recent days. These air strikes have destroyed much of the militant’s long-range weapons cache.

“We are targeting these right as we are speaking,” Oren said.

“We’re doing this in a calibrated way not only to minimize collateral damage but to also give Hamas the opportunity to stand down; and they have not,” Oren said, explaining that 16,000 Israeli reservists are currently stationed along Israel’s border with Gaza.

“Those forces are deployed and ready to act if need be,” Oren said.

A delegation of senators who spoke with Oren about the fast-moving situation earlier this week said the U.S. will defend Israel’s security.

The senators said the U.S. is committed to Israel’s security following the briefing with Oren.

“As a bipartisan group of Senators committed to Israel’s security, we express our solidarity with Israel during this deeply challenging period and denounce the reprehensible and indiscriminate rocket attacks launched by Hamas and Islamic Jihad against innocent Israeli citizens,” said the statement, jointly released by Sens. Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.), Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.), Jim DeMint (R., S.C.), and Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.). 

We strongly support Israel’s right to defend its people and call on those responsible for the violence to cease their attacks against Israel immediately,” the senators said.

House members struck a similar tone in statements issued via email and on Twitter.

“I unequivocally support Israel’s right to defend itself in the face of unjustified attacks from Hamas and other terrorist organizations targeting innocent Israeli civilians,” Rep. Steve Israel (D., N.Y.) said in a statement Thursday.

“Israeli citizens have faced a constant barrage of rockets this month, more than 200 rockets have rained down from Gaza in the last 24 hours, and nearly 1,000 rockets have hit Israel this year,” Israel added.

Rep. Joe Walsh (R., Ill.) also backed Israel’s right to self-defense and urged the U.S. to hold terrorist actors accountable across the Middle East.

“The United States must hold the Palestinians accountable for these unprovoked, heinous acts,” Walsh said in a statement. “It must also hold Egypt, Qatar, and Iran accountable for their support of Palestinian militants and the terrorist group Hamas.”

Walsh also chided Egypt for increasing tensions with Israel.

The Muslim Brotherhood-run Egyptian government has warned Israel to end its attacks on Gaza.

A Brotherhood offshoot in Egypt referred to Israel as a “Zionist occupier” and a “racist state” earlier this week as it called on Israel to end its military operations, according to the Associated Press.

The Brotherhood’s official arm released a similar statement criticizing Israel.

“The killing of tens of our innocent Palestinian brothers is part of a link in a chain of oppression and Judaization that seeks to impose itself on the ground, and that will never materialize with God’s will,” the statement said, according to the AP.

Walsh said he was concerned over Egypt’s aggressive stance and urged the Obama administration to withhold its foreign aid. He previously authored a bill linking Palestinian aid to good behavior.

“I am disappointed that Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has used this unprovoked attack on Israel to reveal both his sympathy for the terrorist group, Hamas, and his opposition to Middle East peace,” he said in a statement. “Why are we providing Egypt with $2 billion in foreign aid every year to vilify our allies and oppose American interests? It’s time to hold Egypt accountable as well. I urge the President to withhold foreign aid to Egypt until it publicly reaffirms its treaties with Israel.”

Other members expressed sympathy for Israeli citizens living in the south, which has faced the brunt of Hamas’ attacks.

“One of the most impactful experiences of my tenure in Congress was my visit to S’derot where Israelis face constant rocket attacks,” Rep. Gary Peters (D., Mich.) said in a statement.

“Today, these attacks have resulted in the tragic deaths of three innocent Israelis,” Peters said. “I strongly support Israel’s right to self defense from these indiscriminate attacks on its civilians because innocent children should never know this kind of fear.”