Clinton Ally, Lawmaker Rejects U.S. Funding for Israeli Security Needs

Duckworth opposes helping Israel protect against terrorism

Tammy Duckworth
Tammy Duckworth / AP
• July 28, 2016 2:45 pm


PHILADELPHIA—A Democratic lawmaker scheduled to address the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Thursday evening has come out against U.S. funding for critical Israeli security needs, sparking criticism about her commitment to joint U.S.-Israeli efforts to fight terrorists.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D., Ill.), a House Armed Services Committee member and Hillary Clinton ally, told observers that U.S. funding for Israel's missile defense systems is not the "best solution."

Duckworth's criticism of longstanding U.S. funding for Israeli security needs drew criticism from pro-Israel congressional advocates who have sought for years to ensure the Jewish state can defend against attacks by rogue terror groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas.

The comments come as criticism of Israel has emerged as a centerpiece of the Democratic convention. One lawmaker compared Jewish Israeli settlers to "termites" earlier this week, and protesters on the streets of Philadelphia have burned the Israeli flag.

"Oftentimes the best path to a security is peace," Duckworth said at an event sponsored by J Street, a Middle East advocacy group known for its criticism of Israel. "Sometimes the best solution is not more weapons; sometimes the best solution is actually entering negotiations and find a way to work together in peace."

Duckworth's comments have been interpreted as a shot at a bipartisan effort to ensure that Israel receives full funding from the United States for its security needs. The pro-Israel effort is being spearheaded by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) and Mark Kirk (R., Ill,), whom Duckworth is seeking to unseat in November. At least 35 senators from both parties have lent their support to the effort.

"These joint U.S.-Israel programs continue to yield critical defense capabilities that protect Israel from missile and rocket threats from as near as the Gaza Strip and Lebanon to as far as Iran," the senators wrote in a letter to the chair and vice chair of the Senate subcommittee on defense appropriations, which was also backed by Sens. David Vitter (R., La.), David Perdue (R., Ga.), Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.), and Tim Kaine (D., Va.), who was selected as Clinton's vice presidential running mate.

"As you know, investments over the years in U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs have saved the lives of countless civilians from indiscriminate rocket and missile attacks," the letter states.

Kirk told the Free Beacon that Duckworth's stance is not supported by the majority of Congress.

"This administration repeatedly ignored Iran's illegal missile launches and threats against Israel in order to protect the flawed Iran nuclear deal," Kirk said. "The bipartisan majority of the United States Senate agrees with the American people in favor of Israel missile defense to protect innocent people against terrorist rocket and missile attacks."

Kevin Artl, a spokesman for the Kirk campaign, told the Washington Free Beacon that Duckworth is embracing fringe policies in order to ingratiate herself with the most liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

"Another reckless and irresponsible foreign policy position by Duckworth who is clearly kowtowing to her top financial contributors at the J Street PAC," Artl said. "What is becoming abundantly clear is that Duckworth's national security views are being driven by those who fill her campaign coffers."

Duckworth has been a vocal supporter of the Iran nuclear agreement, which paved the way for Tehran to access billions of dollars in once-frozen assets.

One top official with a prominent pro-Israel organization described Duckworth's position as dangerous to Israel's security and the Democratic Party's support for Israel.

"Hezbollah has 150,000 rockets and missiles pointed at Israeli civilians and Duckworth is trying to prevent the Israelis from being able to defend themselves against these weapons," said the source. "This position is so fringe it's even to the left of President Obama, who regardless of his differences with the Israeli government, has always been clear that the United States must always ensure that the Israelis have what they need to defend themselves."

Update 9:33 p.m.: Following publication, a Duckworth spokesman told the Free Beacon, "Congresswoman Duckworth did not criticize the Senate letter. As the only member of the Illinois Congressional Delegation on the Armed Services Committee, she has been a strong advocate for Israel's security and self defense. The Congresswoman has consistently supported military aid for Israel, including voting to provide hundreds of millions of dollars for missile defense programs like Iron Dome."