WASHINGTON - A bipartisan group of 32 senators sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, urging him that the United States security coordinator (USSC) for Israel and the Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem remain an officer of three-star rank “and not be downgraded below that level.”
Earlier this month, Axios reported that the Pentagon is considering downgrading the post from the rank of three-star general to that of a colonel. According to the report, the State Department and the Israeli Defense Ministry are concerned such a decision could hurt security cooperation between the US and Palestinians.
“Given continued regional volatility, steadfast high-level US leadership and engagement to support peace and stability in Israel and the West Bank remain in the national security interest of the United States,” the senators wrote.
“Given continued regional volatility, steadfast high-level US leadership and engagement to support peace and stability in Israel and the West Bank remain in the national security interest of the United States.”The senators
Among the senators who signed the letter were: Jon Ossoff (D-Georgia), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), John Kennedy (R-Louisiana), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).
“The USSC coordinates multilateral efforts toward peace and stability and serves as a critical liaison between Israeli and PA security forces,” they wrote. “Downgrading this position would undermine US leadership and credibility in a region where it is essential to have a high-ranking officer who can engage with other nations’ highest-level military leaders.”
They went on to write that the European Union, United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Poland and others count on the USSC to provide this leadership.
“Downgrading this position would undermine critical security programs and degrade communications between Israelis and Palestinians, which the USSC facilitates,” the letter reads. “Such a downgrade would also risk fracturing the US-led international coalition committed to strengthening security and stability in Israel and the West Bank.”
They noted that they understand Congress has required the Department to reduce the aggregate number of flag and general officers, and this requirement may have driven consideration of this change. “Nevertheless, we urge you not to downgrade this position at a time when US leadership in the region is critical, and we stand ready to work with you to amend the law as necessary to support this vital policy objective,” they wrote.