Legislation requiring US Secretary of State John Kerry to offer a monetary reward for information leading to the capture of the murderers of American-Israeli teenager Naftali Fraenkel passed unanimously in the Senate on Tuesday.
A bipartisan companion bill filed in the House of Representatives by Reps. Douglas Lamborn (R-Colorado) and Brad Sherman (D-California) has yet to be voted on.
Fraenkel, 16, together with Gil- Ad Shaer, 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, was kidnapped and shot at a hitchhiking post in the Etzion settlement bloc on June 12, leading to a massive search and anti-terrorist operation in Judea and Samaria.
Israel blames Hamas for the murders, something it denies.
The mass arrest of Hamas operatives in the West Bank coincided with a dramatic uptick in Palestinian rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.
Gazans had already fired more than a hundred rockets into Israel in 2014 before the latest escalation.
The Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), would require Kerry to “offer rewards totaling up to $5,000,000 for information on the kidnapping and murder,” under the State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program, which provides financial incentives for those with information on terrorists targeting Americans to come forward.
The Jewish Federations of North America praised the passage of the legislation.
“The Senate is boldly signaling to Hamas terrorists that there are consequences for murdering American citizens,” JFNA Senior Vice President for Public Policy William Daroff told The Jerusalem Post. “This is another indicator of the unanimity of congressional support for Israel in its battle against Iran-backed Hamas terrorists.”
The bill garnered the endorsement of the Fraenkel family, with Yishai Fraenkel, Naftali’s paternal uncle, thanking the American legislators behind the two bills earlier this month.
Cruz has been a vocal opponent of the Obama administration’s approach to the Israeli-Arab conflict, calling the Obama’s policies “misguided.”
Critiquing the White House’s calls for a unilateral Israeli ceasefire, Cruz said that “Israel did not want this conflict,” that the US, “with or without the president – will continue to stand with Israel” and that he believed the White House had “undermined US and Israeli security.”
The Senate also passed a resolution on Tuesday “supporting Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas.” Cruz has already filed another bill along these lines condemning Hamas for using human shields and endorsing Israel’s military offensive.