Ohio’s House of Representative is expected in the coming weeks to pass legislation opposing boycotts of Israel, Ohio Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger (R) announced after MK Hilik Bar (Zionist Union) addressed the House on Thursday.
“Ohio will fight BDS and boycotts against Israel,” Bar said. “They’ve already started working on the bill, and will pass it very soon. It was a great gift to hear about it on my visit.”
The legislation is expected to be similar to South Carolina’s anti-BDS law, which prevents the state from doing business with companies or individuals engaged in the “boycott of a person or entity based in or doing business with a jurisdiction with whom South Carolina can enjoy open trade.” The law is based on the premise that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement discriminates against Israel and weakens the state’s economy.
The Speaker’s announcement came after Bar became the first foreign parliamentarian to address the Ohio State Senate, at the invitation of Ohio Senate President Keith Faber (R), and the House of Representatives, an event initiated by Rosenberger.
Bar spoke of the many threats Israel faces in an unstable Middle East.
“The restoration of Jewish statehood after two thousand years in exile is a historic miracle,” he said. “We had to fight six wars in seven decades. We did not lose one; we can’t afford to lose. We had to defend ourselves.”
“From a dispersed people, we became a united democracy. Not one day of war ever interrupted a day of democracy – not even one,” he added.
Bar talked about growing up in Safed, where there were constant threats from terrorists in Lebanon, and of having grandparents who survived the Holocaust, and said that these two things made him committed to “fighting for the safe existence of our people in their rightful historic homeland…[and] to ensure that the Jewish people in the State of Israel will always be able to defend themselves, but it also shaped my never-ending desire for peace.”
Still, he said, seeking peace is difficult and complex; with all the changes in the Middle East, and with the Arab Spring and ISIS, Israel faces many new challenges.
“Israel’s strong deterrence has afforded – in the past – relative quiet on its borders, and an advantage against its potential enemies,” he explained. “This deterrence seems to be narrowing today, in the face of the fall of regimes in our bordering states, and a possible nuclear Iran.”
Bar discussed instability in Egypt, which has left a power vacuum in Sinai, allowing terrorist activity and attacks on the Egyptian army as close as 20 miles from Israel, and the civil war in Syria, where ISIS controls almost a third of the territory, including parts that are close to the border with Israel.
“And to top it all off, there is Iran,” he continued.
“Peace in the Middle East is a dream for most of its people, but it is a nightmare for the Ayatollahs in Iran. Iran has an evil, cruel, morally corrupt regime.”
Bar pointed out that Iran is the central sponsor of global terrorism and is a danger to the entire world, not only to Israel.
In addition, he said that a nuclear Iran has made it likely that there will be an arms race in the Middle East, and since 2008 at least 13 Arab and Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Turkey, have either announced new plans or revived old ones to explore atomic energy.
Bar did not discuss his extensive peace plan, which he published earlier this year and previously presented to think tanks in Boston and Washington DC, telling The Jerusalem Post that his goal in the Ohio State Legislature was to represent Israel’s position.
Still, Bar said in Columbus that “Israel experienced the horrors of war; it does not seek it.
Peace is always our first option. Trust me – Israel is not a state that wants to live by its sword forever…We made peace before and we should always aspire and try to have more partners for peace.”
“But there is one very basic thing I am always telling our enemies: You should decide if you want to live next to us, or instead of us.
If you want to live next to us – peacefully – we should find, together, the golden middle road to make peace. But, if you have a desire to live here instead of us, you should know it will never, ever happen.”
“And if you by any chance have a secret or hidden dream to destroy us and replace us, you should know: Israel is here to stay,” he added.
Following the MK’s address, Rosenberger gave Bar the “Key to the State of Ohio,” an honor that has previously been bestowed upon former US president George W. Bush, former president Shimon Peres and US Senator John McCain (R-AZ) “It shows the support for Israel in an important area of the US, one of the most important political states in the presidential election,” Bar said, referring to Ohio’s status as a swing state. “They support Israel and peace and security for us.”
Bar’s trip to Ohio was sponsored by the Israel Leadership Institute; Bar took part in a gala that raised $50,000 for the children of Sderot and a project to help lone IDF soldiers from the US. He also met with members of the Ohio Jewish community.
After his arrival, and in light of the security situation in Israel, he received the invitations from Faber and Rosenberger.
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