Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) is blocking a piece of Israel-related legislation over concerns that the measure's language waters down support for the Jewish state, congressional sources confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon on Monday.
Cruz will also introduce an amendment to the legislation that strips the contested language and replaces it with a statement enshrining American support for Israel, according to a copy of that amendment also obtained by the Free Beacon. The senator will block the bill from moving forward until his amendment is considered.
The bill in question is the Israel Relations Normalization Act of 2021, which has been working its way through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is now coming up for a vote in the Senate. The legislation broadly aims to solidify congressional support for Abraham Accords peace agreements but has been subject to increasing controversy in recent weeks due to the last-minute inclusion of language that would establish a different U.S. policy equivocating on diplomatic support for Israel and Palestinian statehood.
The changes prompted Cruz to pull his sponsorship of the original legislation late last month. Cruz says the current version of the bill would pour millions of dollars in aid into the Palestinian government and completely rewrite longstanding U.S. policy, which specifically supports Israel in its peace negotiations. Cruz's amendment would strip the language in question, bringing the bill back in line with established U.S. policy on the issue.
The dispute hints at deeper divisions in the Senate over the direction of U.S. policy on peace negotiations and relations with Israel. The Biden administration wants to boost diplomacy with the Palestinian government and has unfrozen millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer aid as a good-will gesture—a decision that Cruz and many other Republicans opposed, citing the Palestinian leadership's ongoing support for terrorism and incitement against Israel.
The most controversial change in the legislation is the insertion of language that would rewrite American policy regarding peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Congress has mandated since 2012 that U.S. policy must be to "assist" and "support the Government of Israel" in its ongoing talks with the Palestinians. The Israel Relations Normalization Act, however, alters this language to strip statements of American support for Israel in peace talks, instead stating only that the United States supports "a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulting in two states living side by side in peace, security, and mutual recognition."
The language, Cruz said, was not included in the original legislation and was inserted late last month, just hours before the bill was set to be advanced. Cruz, in a statement at the time, said his efforts to delete the language were thwarted by Senate Foreign Relations Committee leadership. He is now offering an amendment that reinserts language enshrining American support for Israel in peace talks.
Cruz's amendment reasserts that America’s policy should be to support "the Government of Israel" as it negotiates with the Palestinians.
"Hours before the vote, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee radically changed the bill," Cruz said in June, when he decided to pull his name off the bill. "The language added declared it would be 'policy of the United States' to create a Palestinian state and to pour millions into Palestinian areas despite ongoing Palestinian government salaries for terrorists. I offered amendments to return the bill to its original bipartisan embrace of the Abraham Accords, but they were rejected."
"U.S. diplomats have no business telling our Israeli allies what to do with their territories, let alone pressuring them to cede sovereignty for a Palestinian state," Cruz said.
Jeff Ballabon, a political strategist and author of the Republican Party platform on Israel, said the changes to the original legislation represent "a reversal of decades of American policy in line with [President Barack] Obama’s most egregious detours into anti-Israel hostility."
"Not only is Senator Cruz entirely correct, his position is precisely that of the GOP platform’s Israel plank," Ballabon told the Free Beacon. "Any senator with even the slightest genuine concern for peace and security for Arabs or Jews should stand with Cruz."