US Capitol building 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Bourg)
NEW YORK – An overwhelming majority of the US Senate approved a resolution on
Monday that stated the intent of Congress to support the “legitimate
self-defense” of Israel, with American diplomatic and military power, if the
Jewish state chooses to move ahead with a strike on Iran.
Resolution 65, named in honor of Israel’s 65th anniversary, was brought to the
floor by Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina) and Senate Foreign
Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), after a significant
lobbying effort from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The
bipartisan pair attracted 79 cosponsors.
The resolution was passed as a
“sense of Congress” proclamation, a piece of legislation that does not carry the
force of law. It is essentially a majority opinion issued by the upper chamber
of the legislature, which has already approved generous funding for joint
military programs with the IDF.
In a possible split from the White House,
the resolution states that US policy is to “prevent Iran from acquiring a
nuclear weapons capability” – the stated red line of the Netanyahu
Obama officials have set a different line: The acquisition of
a nuclear weapon – and not merely reaching breakout capacity – has dictated
their timeline for action.
The discrepancy is significant, given the
extensive revisions made to other sections of the resolution.
drafts of the resolution underscored the constitutional requirement of Congress
to authorize the use of force or to declare war and noted that this proclamation
did neither of those things.
But sources with a pro- Israel organization
noted that “in order to give immediate [military] support to an ally, you
wouldn’t need additional authorization – you don’t need an action from Congress
beyond the authorization of monies, which has already been done.”
Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon
official, said it would be folly to disregard the resolution just because it
came out of the legislative branch and not the executive. He continued that it
is the Senate that has led State Department policy on Iran and not the other way
“What this resolution does is strengthen diplomacy,” Rubin said.
“The Iranians have a bad habit of believing their own propaganda, and they
remember the Chuck Hagel hearings. But when you have a sense of resolution like this, it reminds
the Iranians that divisions within the United States on Israel aren’t as extreme
as they might believe.”
Experts said the resolution serves to both
reinforce and undercut US President Barack Obama’s position, which skeptical
congressmen fear is overly cautious as the Iranian timeline grows ever
“As [US Secretary of State John] Kerry has now said, as the
president has said, as the military and every relevant branch of American power
has said, there’s a finite amount of time for Iran to stop its illicit
activities,” said Josh Block, executive director of The Israel Project. “It’s
important to make clear that this resolution is about standing with Israel, that
the US supports its right to self-defense.”
Ranking member of the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told The Jerusalem
Post that the resolution, as amended, “expresses strong US support for Israel’s
right to self-defense while recognizing Congress’s constitutional role in
authorizing US military action overseas.”
“With recent negotiations to
end Iran’s nuclear program having broken down, passage of the resolution will
send a strong signal that the US will not tolerate Iran’s pursuit of nuclear
weapons,” Corker said. “[The US] will stand by Israel and the international
community in enforcement of aggressive sanctions against the regime in
Matthew Duss, a policy analyst at the Center for American
Progress in Washington, said that the proclamation “creates certain political
commitments when we’re formally talking about military strikes in
“Even though it’s not policy, the original draft of the
resolution essentially offered a blank check to Israel in the event it decided
to strike, and that’s notable because I’m not aware of much precedent for that,”