Washington, D.C. – Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the senior Democratic member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the below remarks, as prepared for delivery, at today’s full committee markup of H.Res. 447 and H.R. 938
The following remarks were given on H.Res. 447:
Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for holding this markup today and for working with us in a bipartisan manner on both of the measures under consideration.
I strongly support H. Res. 447, a bipartisan resolution I authored that supports the democratic and European aspirations of the people of Ukraine, and their right to choose their own future.
As a long-standing advocate of a democratic, prosperous, and independent Ukraine, I was very disappointed by the Ukrainian government’s decision last November to reject an offer from the European Union for closer economic and political ties. This decision derailed years of hard work, as well as the prospects for long-term economic growth and stronger democratic institutions that would result from enhanced relations with the EU.
More immediately, it sparked massive demonstrations in Kyiv and throughout the country. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have come out in the streets to show their support not only for closer relations with Europe, but also more fundamentally for democracy, more accountable government, human rights, and basic human dignity. The fact that the protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful makes them all the more impressive.
Unfortunately, there have been exceptions, including police violence on several occasions in November and December, the beatings and abductions of journalists and civil society activists, and the most recent and tragic violence following the January 16 passage of anti-democratic laws by Ukraine’s parliament.
I strongly condemn all acts of violence. It is imperative that all sides exercise restraint and avoid confrontation. Individuals must behave responsibly, and the authorities in particular must respect and uphold the democratic rights of all citizens. And those who authorize or engage in violence should be held personally accountable for their actions, including by targeted sanctions, if appropriate. This is why I welcomed the recent actions by the Department of State to revoke the visas of several individuals linked to the violence.
Following the dramatic increase in tensions this month, the most recent developments in Ukraine give some cause for hope. I welcome the repeal of most of the anti-democratic measures and the fact that meaningful talks appear to have begun between the government and opposition leaders.
But the situation in Ukraine remains very volatile and more needs to be done. I commend the efforts of the Administration and of our European partners to de-escalate tensions, and believe that we must remain engaged. And once again, at this critical moment in Ukraine’s history, I urge all parties to continue the substantive and sustained dialogue that is essential to resolve the crisis and address the desire of millions of Ukrainian citizens for a democratic, European future.
The following remarks were given on H.R. 938:
“Mr. Chairman, I strongly support H.R. 938, the Israel Strategic Partnership Act. Israel is one of our closest and most reliable allies, and this important legislation seeks to further strengthen and broaden our mutually beneficial relationship.”
“I commend Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, the Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, and Mr. Deutch, the Ranking Member of that subcommittee, for authoring this legislation and for working tirelessly over the past year to further refine some of the provisions. And I support the amendment in the nature of a substitute, which includes a number of changes that strengthen the underlying bill.”
“Israel faces a growing array of threats in the Middle East and around the world. Danger lurks at every border. Israel is the target of vicious delegitimization campaigns by international institutions, universities and others that seek to undermine Israel’s right to self-defense. And Israel would face an existential threat from a nuclear-armed Iran.”
“The legislation before us today is critical because it sends a clear and unmistakable message to Israel’s foes: America stands with Israel.”
“Even at a time when both Israeli and American defense officials say that the collaboration between our two nations has never been closer, we must not be complacent. Now is the time to reaffirm the vital importance we place on the US-Israel relationship, and to pursue new ways to improve our partnership at every level.”
“Specifically, this bill will expand our robust defense cooperation, increase US-Israel collaboration on cyber-security, and reaffirm our commitment to Israeli missile defense programs, which have saved many innocent lives.”
“This legislation also includes the text of H.R. 1992, the Israel QME Enhancement Act, which passed the House in December. I would once again like to thank the authors of that important bill, Mr. Collins of Georgia and Mr. Schneider of Illinois, for their hard work on this critical issue.”
“I am very pleased to support this legislation, and I look forward to working with the Chairman, the authors and many others who have made contributions to the bill as it moves forward in the legislative process.”