By Congressman Tom Cole
For nearly 75 years now, the United States has proudly stood with and by the Jewish State of Israel on the international stage.
Indeed, America has always remained Israel’s longest and most loyal ally. And it is the shared desire to promote, protect and preserve democracy around the world which has created the strong and lasting bond between our two countries.
As you might know, Israel first established itself as an independent state on May 14, 1948, upon the declaration of the Jewish People’s Council and following years of land disputes.
It was on that very same day – 11 minutes later, in fact – that the United States was first to recognize Israel and affirm its right to exist. About a year later, the United Nations also recognized Israel through admittance into its organization.
However, many decades since Israel first declared its independence, there are still 29 countries around the world, including several of its Arab and Muslim neighbors, that refuse to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.
Although the Israeli people desire to live at peace with their neighbors in the surrounding region, they are constantly the targets of senseless terror.
And in recent few weeks, Israel has endured relentless and vicious attacks from Hamas.
To be clear, Hamas is a terrorist organization that does not value human life. In contrast to Israel’s use of missile defense systems to protect its civilians, Hamas purposely embeds among innocent civilians and uses them as human shields.
Alarmingly, Hamas continues to receive funding from state sponsors of terrorism, including Iran.
In response to what has now been more than 4,000 rockets fired at Israeli civilian cities in less than two weeks, House Republicans requested a vote last week on the bipartisan Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act, which was introduced by Congressman Brian Mast earlier this year.
Rightly so, the legislation would sanction those who fund Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as well as cut off the flow of weapons.
Unfortunately, 217 Democrats blocked consideration of the bill – even though this same exact bill passed the House in the previous Congress.
I am disappointed that Democrats who previously supported the legislation refused to even allow a vote on it last week, especially while Israel is the clear target of terrorism.
The House missed a critical opportunity to show it stands with Israel and against terrorist organizations and their enablers
Indeed, as Israel’s most loyal ally, we have a solemn duty to stand with our Israeli friends and push back against sympathizers of the terrorist organization of Hamas and those who aim to misrepresent the narrative.
Certainly, as a target of terrorism, Israel has the right to defend itself.
As a long-time member of the House Appropriations Committee that provides for our own national defense as well as significant security and economic assistance for Israel, I have proudly supported funding for initiatives like the Iron Dome, a joint Israeli-American project that intercepts missiles. Over the years and particularly in recent days, this technology has proved critical to helping Israel protect its people from enemies and save hundreds of lives.
While the U.S.-provided security assistance rightly comes with the flexibility for Israel to self-determine how to exercise the right to defend itself, much of it is spent on purchasing needed equipment from U.S. industry.
It is my sincerest hope that the Biden Administration and Democrats controlling Congress will continue to prioritize this vital support.
Sadly, amid the latest attacks on Israel, House Democrats had an opportunity to increase defense aid through a request brought by Republicans on the floor. Unfortunately, they refused consideration of the measure.
While I am relieved that a ceasefire was agreed to, the United States must remain steadfast in supporting Israel and working to promote the peace desired by the Israeli people. Too many innocent lives have been taken due to the regional hostility.
Through the diplomatic efforts of the Trump Administration, the Middle East and our Israeli friends saw an era of unprecedented peace, with new relationships formed with the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Bahrain, as outlined in the Abraham Accords.
The Biden Administration should continue to further advance and enact these diplomatic initiatives. To encourage the Biden Administration to build upon previous diplomatic achievements in the region, I recently cosponsored the Israel Relations Normalization Act, which would require the Department of State to provide a strategy to strengthen and expand the Abraham Accords and other related normalization agreements with Israel.
Indeed, Israel is key to the cause of democracy in the Middle East, and the will of its citizens proves to be a powerful example that the government should serve and protect the people. We must always stand with Israel.