Washington, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Howard L. Berman, the Ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the below remarks as prepared for delivery at today’s committee hearing with Secretary of State Clinton, entitled: “Assessing U.S. Foreign Policy Priorities Amidst Economic Challenges: The Foreign Relations Budget for Fiscal Year 2012.”
The statement follows:
Madam Secretary, welcome and thank you for being with us here today.
At the outset, I’d like to commend you for your hard work on North Korea. Today’s announcement that Pyongyang has agreed to freeze long-range missile launches, nuclear tests, and uranium enrichment activities, and allow the IAEA back in the country appears to be an important step on a long and difficult path. However, I’m sure you don’t need me to remind you that we’ve been down this road before, and it remains to be seen whether the North will keep its promises this time.
Madam Secretary, in a more general sense, I’d like to recognize the tremendous commitment and dedication you have shown to reestablishing the United States, not just as an indispensable power, but as an indispensable partner.
You have made it your mission to show the world the best of who we are as Americans. Eloquently and consistently, you have spoken up for women, for the poor, and for those whose human rights and dignity had been trampled. You have elevated development, alongside diplomacy and defense, as a pillar of our national security.
Within the Administration and in the halls of Congress, you have fought to ensure that our diplomats and aid workers receive the resources they need and the respect they deserve. They risk their lives every day to support American interests abroad. And in the face of mounting deficits here at home, it is important to remember that these civilian efforts are much more cost-effective than deploying our military.
Today we are here to assess how the President’s Fiscal Year 2013 international affairs budget responds to the threats and priorities we face as a nation.
Many people believe, erroneously, that foreign aid accounts for 20% or more of our budget. The truth is that we spend just over one percent of our national budget on diplomacy and development. Yet these programs have an outsized impact on our health, prosperity and security here at home.
With one in five American jobs dependent on trade, and half our exports going to developing countries, our overseas programs are a critical part of strengthening the American economy and getting Americans back to work. Building an economy that will last into the future requires building foreign markets for our goods and services.
Our security is threatened if nuclear weapons fall into the wrong hands or if fragile and failing states become training grounds for terrorists. Our foreign assistance dollars help counter the flow of illicit narcotics and control the spread of organized crime. Nearly a quarter of the Fiscal Year 2013 international affairs budget request is dedicated to supporting critical U.S. efforts in the frontline states of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
And finally, the principles we cherish are undermined if we allow families to go hungry, children to die of easily preventable diseases, and girls to be kept out of school.
In short, helping countries become more democratic, more stable, more capable of defending themselves and better at pulling themselves out of poverty is just as important for us and our national security as it is for them. To succeed, we must ensure that our budget resources are allocated wisely, and that our international programs are carried out in the most efficient and effective manner.
Before closing, I’d like to highlight two of my top and somewhat inter-related priorities – Middle East peace, and the effort to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability.
Madam Secretary, for the past three years, the Palestinians have simply refused to engage seriously in peace talks.
My sad conclusion is that Palestinian leaders don’t have the will or the desire to make the compromises necessary to achieve peace. They don’t want to engage seriously, because they know that, in the end, they won’t do the deal. That was what happened at Camp David in 2000, at Taba in 2001, and in the Olmert talks in 2008. And now, nearly two decades after Oslo, I see no evidence that the Palestinians have begun in the slightest to prepare their public for the prospect that they will have to relinquish the so-called “right of return” and recognize Israel as a Jewish state – two critical elements of any peace deal. I find that disturbing.
Meanwhile, the Israelis continue to say they’ll negotiate “anytime, any place.” If Palestinian leaders really want statehood, they’ll have to show it both through their public commitments and by engaging in serious negotiations with Israel. If they try to circumvent negotiations by once again taking their case to the United Nations, they’ll get no recognition from the U.S., and they won’t get the time of day from the U.S. Congress.
The only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that can bring peace and security to both parties is a two-state solution -- and that can only become a reality through direct negotiations. Madam Secretary, I hope you’ll re-assure us that, amidst all your challenges, you’re doing everything possible to persuade the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table, a place where they’ve spent precious little time in recent years.
Madam Secretary, let me turn now to the greatest security challenge facing both Israel and the United States, namely, the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.
I believe it was during your first testimony before this Committee, in 2009, that you first said that our goal was to impose “crippling sanctions” on Iran if the regime doesn’t suspend its uranium enrichment program and otherwise comply with the demands of the UN Security Council.
Now the sanctions are finally starting to have some bite, and within a few weeks or so the Congress is likely to pass new legislation for the President to sign – legislation that tightens sanctions and that gives the Administration new authorities to tighten sanctions still further. The House passed its version of that legislation, the Iran Threat Reduction Act, by an overwhelming vote late last year.
Can you give us a status report on the impact of sanctions in Iran and on whether there is any sign that they are starting to have the desired effect on the thinking of Iranian decision-makers?
Thank you, Madam Secretary, I look forward to hearing your testimony.