WASHINGTON – The US Senate passed legislation Friday to enhance security
cooperation between Israel and the United States.
The measure, which
passed by unanimous consent with 69 senators as co-sponsors, calls for the
strengthening of the countries’ bilateral relationship by increasing
coordination in the fields of missile defense, homeland security, energy,
intelligence and cyber-security. It also seeks to improve Israel’s qualitative
military edge, a long-time stated goal of American foreign policy.
similar measure has already passed the US House of Representatives and now the
two versions have to be reconciled before being sent to the White House for the
signature of President Barack Obama.
The American Israel Public Affairs
Committee strongly welcomed the Senate action Friday.
“As the United
States faces an increasingly dangerous environment in the Middle East – the
mounting threat posed by Iran, instability in Syria and the strengthening of the
Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, whose reach stretches into the Western
hemisphere – now is the time to enhance our strategic cooperation with our
stable, democratic ally Israel,” AIPAC said.
“AIPAC calls on Congress to
reconcile expeditiously these two bills to bolster the ties between the United
States and Israel.”
In the US House on Friday, several members criticized
the decision of UNESCO to put the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on the
World Heritage List.
“We all know that this vote today was not about the
Church of the Nativity, as the resolution was opposed by the church’s religious
caretakers,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Howard Berman said.
“Rather, this was just another attempt by the Palestinians to make an end run
around direct peace negotiations with Israel. The Palestinian strategy of
pursuing unilateral UN actions is flawed and dangerous and only moves the
parties further away from peace.”
He added, “I’m particularly
disappointed with the actions of France, the only European country to vote in
favor of this resolution.”
On Thursday, Foreign Affairs Committee
Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen criticized the Obama administration for letting
China out of new sanctions penalties for buying oil from Iran.
sanctions were legislated by Congress but give the administration the option to
exempt countries it considers to have made serious efforts to curb dealings with
the Islamic Republic.
“The administration likes to pat itself on the back
for supposedly being strong on Iran sanctions. But actions speak louder than
words, and today the administration has granted a free pass to Iran’s biggest
enabler, China, which purchases more Iranian crude than any other country,”
And she pledged, “Congress will once again fill the
leadership vacuum created by the administration, and work to strengthen
sanctions against the regime in Tehran.”
An administration official,
briefing reporters on the sanctions and exemptions for China, pointed to a
25-percent reduction in imports between January and May of this year, when China
was involved with a pricing dispute with Iran.
The official, speaking
under ground rules of anonymity, also noted a posting on a Chinese energy website
indicating a more fundamental change in policy.
“What we have now also is
what we believe to be an authoritative statement on this China energy website,
where the Chinese are indicating that a structural change in their crude oil
imports will allow for