Nita Lowey highlighted concerns following a recent trip to Israel. If you have been to Israel (and like all good Irish Catholics I have, numerous times) the issue is as simple and clear as Lowey spells out. Israel is a tiny country in a dangerous part of the world (a tank brigade would need just 8 hours to get from the borders of Iraq to Jerusalem). As the only democracy in the Middle East for more than 60 years, the Arab Spring might seem like a good thing but only if revolution is accompanied by reform and a move towards Arab democracy. All too often in history, revolutions end in despotism and the fastest road to despotic power in the the Middle East typically involves demonizing the Israelis (and by extension the United States). Without supporting Lowey (I will almost surely supporting her opponent, an impressive veteran of the Afghanistan campaign and aide to General David Petreus) or recommending a donation to her, she makes an important point nonetheless. I thought it was worth sharing.
This time, it was different.
I have been to Israel on many occasions, in both a private and public capacity. I have met with Israeli leaders of every political party, toured the Israeli towns within an hour’s march of enemy soldiers, visited the Israeli cafes and squares in which innocents were slaughtered by terrorists, and observed the enduring strength and devotion to principle that define the Israeli people.
But on my most recent trip to Israel, from which I returned just days ago, something was different. There was a new, unsettled mood in the air. The Middle East is changing rapidly, and the impact on Israel’s future is uncertain and deeply concerning.
Decades-old assumptions about security along the Egyptian border are open to question.
Prospects for normalization with Syria now look increasingly distant.
The existential threat of Iranian nuclear arms draws steadily closer.
And the capacity of responsible Palestinian leadership to reconcile their people to the terms of a sustainable peace is very much in doubt.
I do not pretend that there are simple and clear solutions to these complex challenges.
But simple and clear is how I view my own duty as a Member of Congress: to ensure that Israel has the unshakable support of the United States of America.
Israel needs to know that America’s friendship is deep, durable and founded in the fundamental values that bind together all free peoples. Such friendships endure in the face of every obstacle.
Of course, there are legitimate differences among Israelis and the international community about the path forward to peace. Government leaders, journalists and citizens I saw on my recent trip presented a broad range of views on what steps Israel must take to protect its security and pursue negotiations in the months ahead.
Just as Israelis themselves have divergent opinions, American support does not necessarily entail unqualified endorsement of all of Israel’s policies and actions. But that must never be an obstacle to our alliance with Israel, which is aimed at peace, regional stability, and our own strategic security interests.
In my capacity as the Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, which sets the annual American international aid budget, I have been absolutely steadfast in advocating for Israel. I have championed the bilateral assistance that provides Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region. I have worked to keep American dollars out of the hands of terrorists and the regimes that support terrorists. And I have conditioned American aid to Arab and Palestinian partners on measurable steps toward peaceful civil institutions.
Because I know you share my belief in the moral and strategic importance of the American-Israeli alliance, I invite you to join me today as a partner.
In fact, I need your help.
Unfortunately, an increasing number of shortsighted isolationists in Congress think America should withdraw from the global stage and view our alliance with Israel as an unnecessary or even harmful entanglement.
And isolationists are not our worst challenge. In the last congressional election, my opponent accused me of being a tool of the Israel lobby and hinted at Israeli control of American foreign policy!
I am not intimidated by such challenges, but we shouldn’t take them lightly either. They demand the most forceful and vigorous response.
So please help me affirm our shared principles – in Washington, in the Middle-east and on the campaign trail – by making a contribution to my reelection committee.
$500, $100, $50 or whatever support you can provide today could make a big difference.
I will continue fighting on behalf of the shared interests that link Israel and the United States, and I am determined to confront the difficult uncertainties of this moment with energy, determination and courage.
Please join me.
Nita M. Lowey
Member of Congress