In today’s combative political climate, amid mounting concerns of partisan posturing, there are few things on which most Democrats and Republicans agree. But a recent letter signed by a super majority of the members of the U.S. House of Representatives suggests that support for continued funding of U.S. security aid to the state of Israel without added conditions, is one of those things.
Last week, 331 House members — split about equally between Democrats and Republicans, and led by Reps. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and Michael McCaul (R-Texas) — sent a letter to the chair and ranking member of the House Committee on Appropriations calling for “full funding for Israel’s security needs” in the appropriations bills for fiscal year 2022. The letter acknowledges that not all members of Congress agree with every policy decision by the state of Israel, but makes clear that those differences should not impact conditions of security funding, and cites President Joe Biden’s comment that conditioning aid to Israel would be “irresponsible.” The letter highlights the strategic importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and discusses direct threats to Israel from Iran and its proxies, declaring that “our rock-solid security partnership serves as a deterrent against even more significant attacks on our shared interests.”
Greater Pittsburgh Reps. Guy Reschenthaler (R-District 14), Mike Kelly (R-District 16) and Conor Lamb (D-District 17), all signed the letter. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-District 18) did not sign it, but sent his own letter to the Committee, calling for full funding of security assistance, without conditions, to Israel.
Although a letter from members of Congress to committee chairs doesn’t usually make much news, there are several reasons why this one is important. First, any unified statement by more than 75% of the members of the House is significant. Second, the overwhelming bipartisan representation of the signatories to the letter — touting support for Israel and its importance as a strong strategic partner and ally of the United States — addresses many concerns regarding the ongoing commitment of both the Democratic and Republican parties to the state of Israel. Third, as observed by Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, in highlighting the importance of the committee to which the letter was directed, “Appropriations is where the real legislating is done. This is where the action is and where meaningful decisions are made.”
Ben-Ami’s comments are particularly interesting, since J Street has been lobbying Congress to include appropriations language to prohibit use of U.S. funds to help annex or exercise permanent control over areas that are subject to military occupation. J Street has also supported the efforts of another group of House members that introduced a bill two weeks ago that would increase oversight and put restrictions on how Israel uses its security aid. That bill was sponsored by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and co-sponsored by an additional 15 Democratic representatives, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D.-NY), Ilhan Omar (D.-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D.-Mich.). The Deutch-McCaul letter is widely viewed as a direct response to the McCollum bill, and was strongly supported by AIPAC.
The intent behind the McCollum bill may be best understood by taking a look at those groups advocating for its passage. The list includes dozens of the most outspoken anti-Israel organizations in the world — Friends of Sabeel North America, the Democratic Socialists of America BDS Palestinian Solidarity Working Group, the Presbyterian Church (USA), Jewish Voice for Peace and the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, just to name a few. These groups, and many others that support the McCollum bill, not only back the BDS movement against Israel, but routinely work to delegitimize the very existence of the Jewish state. The McCollum bill is a fig leaf for a much more nefarious goal.
We are encouraged by the strong bipartisan voice in the Deutch-McCaul letter, which helps allay concerns that Israel is becoming a wedge issue in our political process, and we are comforted that a majority of our representatives have taken a stand in support of Israel. PJC