While Jerusalem’s relationship with the Obama administration may have taken a hit during the recent Gaza operation, ties with Congress are as strong as ever, judging by statements in Jerusalem on Tuesday by the two senior members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“The intent of the United States to support its ally Israel is very, very strong and enduring,” said Rep. Ed Royce (R-California), the chairman of the committee, at a press conference following a meeting with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.
Royce said the “depth and breadth” of bipartisan support for Israel is evident in the hearings held by his committee, as well in debates both in the House and Senate. This support was on full display recently when the House passed a bill to replenish ordinance for Iron Dome by a vote of 425 to 8, he said. Likewise, he said, the House unanimously passed a resolution condemning Hamas for using human shields.
In addition to meeting Liberman, Royce and the ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-New York), met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Engel said Israel enjoyed very strong bipartisan support in Washington, as “both parties very strongly back the United States-Israel alliance, and the United States stands with Israel. This is a very difficult and dangerous neighborhood, and the people of Israel are on the front line every single day defending a way of life, defending democracy.”
He said that “despite any disagreements that the governments might have on smaller issues, on larger issues they are two democracies which share a common bond, common values and we care about the same things.”
One of those “things” was the threat of Islamic terrorism, he said.
Though Netanyahu has come under criticism from some for saying that Hamas and Islamic State are cut of the same cloth, being accused of using this as a “cheap” public diplomacy trick, Engel said the two organizations are “the same – they want to achieve their political goals on the back of terror, they want to deny Israel the right to exist.”
The congressmen visited the South and toured the remnants of terrorist tunnels burrowed into Israel, with Royce saying afterward that “what strikes me is that Israel puts its resources into the Iron Dome to try and protect its population, and puts its resources into concrete for bunkers and basements to protect its citizen, whereas Hamas put its resources into rockets to attack and concrete to build tunnels underneath Israel to carry out terrorist attacks.
“What a sorry situation when you pull down Hamas’s charter, and realize that there is an organization whose only purpose is the destruction of Israel, and an organization that instead of trying to build a future for people is instead focused on killing and maiming,” Royce said.
Engel concluded his comments at the press conference by saying that the US “stands with Israel, and will always stand with Israel. My Hebrew is limited, but I do know three words that I think are very important: Am Yisrael Chai [‘The People of Israel lives’).”
Netanyahu, before his meeting with the congressmen, said the “bipartisan support that Israel enjoys in the United States from both sides of the aisle, from every administration, from every president, is something that we deeply appreciate.
The prime minister characterized this support as “an iron shield for Israel and against human shields that exact horrible, horrible costs from the people of Gaza.”