WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the leading Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, this evening delivered the following remarks on the floor of the United States House of Representatives in support of the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act:
“Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of S. 2673, the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act, and I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Let me first thank Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, the Chair of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, and Mr. Deutch, the Ranking Member of that Subcommittee, for authoring the House version of this legislation which passed by a vote of 410 to 1 on March 5th of this year. (We’ll have to figure out who that one is.) They have worked tirelessly, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen and Mr. Deutch, with their Senate counterparts, Senators Boxer and Blunt, to send this bill to the President.
“This legislation would reaffirm our support for the U.S.-Israel relationship at a time of unprecedented threats.
“In the North, Israel sees Syria engulfed in a civil war that has killed upwards of 200,000 people. The extremists that have filled the vacuum of leadership, like the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra front, are sitting right on Israel’s border. They even kidnapped U.N. peacekeepers tasked with keeping that border calm.
“From Jordan, typically a quiet ally, we have seen some ugly rhetoric over the past few weeks. After terrorists seized a synagogue and slaughtered rabbis in their place of worship, the Jordanian parliament praised the so-called martyrs who perpetuated this heinous attack.
“This summer’s war against Hamas in Gaza left the Israeli public acutely aware of their own vulnerabilities. For years, Israelis on border towns have said that they have heard digging underneath their feet—scratches and vibrations that kept them up at night. It turns out that they were right. Hamas was digging tunnels in order to kidnap Israeli civilians and soldiers or perpetrate large-scale terrorist attacks in some of Israel’s largest cities.
“I stood with Chairman Royce in one of those tunnels just a couple of months ago. We were also with Mr. Rohrabacher, and we looked at those tunnels. It was just amazing. They were solidly constructed and well engineered. I couldn’t help but wonder what Gaza would look like today if Hamas had put those resources into building schools or hospitals or a modern infrastructure for the Palestinian people. But they didn’t. They instead made them terror tunnels. What a waste!
“Hamas is not a legitimate political actor. It uses violence to gain power. It sees no value in human life—neither its Israeli victims nor its Palestinian human shields. And we did pass a resolution earlier this year condemning the Hamas use of innocent civilians as human shields.
“And of course, Israel faces the existential threat of Iran and its illicit nuclear weapons program. Even as talks continue between the P5+1 and Iran, Tehran continues to support international terrorism that targets Jews in Israel and other parts of the world.
“Israel is a bright light, Mr. Speaker, in a very very dark region—the only democracy in the Middle East and a valued ally of the United States. That’s why we’re considering this bill. To strengthen our relationship with the state and the people of Israel and to send a clear and unmistakable message to Israel’s foes. And that message is, America stands with Israel.
“Specifically, this bill would build on our robust defense cooperation. It would ramp up U.S.-Israel collaboration on cybersecurity, expand U.S.-Israel energy cooperation, and reaffirm our commitment to Israel’s QME, or qualitative military edge.
“This legislation names Israel as a major strategic partner, demonstrating that our relationship is not transactional. It’s not assistance-based.
“Our relationship is based on shared cultural, societal, and historical ties, and is clearly ingrained in the values we hold dear.
“It is mutually beneficial and serves the strategic interests of both countries.
“Again in my trip to Israel with Chairman Royce and Mr. Rohrabacher and Mr. Gregory Meeks, we understood why America stands with Israel.
“So for these reasons, I urge my colleagues to support this legislation. It’s very important. It is very important that we do this. I reserve the balance of my time.”