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May 10, 2012

House passes enhanced Israel cooperation bill

http://www.jewishjournal.com/nation/article/house_passes_enhanced_israel_cooperation_bill_20120510

Photo by Martin Jacobsen/Wikipedia

Photo by Martin Jacobsen/Wikipedia

The U.S House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed bipartisan legislation that reaffirms and enhances U.S. policy commitments to Israel’s security.

The United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, which was sponsored by House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), passed by a vote of 411-2.  The legislation garnered bipartisan support from 294 co-sponsors prior to passage.

The two members that voted against the legislation were Reps. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and John Dingell (D-Mich.).  Also, nine members of the House voted “present” on the legislation. 

In addition to expanding military cooperation between the two countries, the legislation states that it will be U.S. policy to provide Israel with essential military capabilities to preserve its qualitative military edge in the region.

Some provisions appear aimed at assisting Israel particularly in any possible confrontation with Iran. The legislation recommends that the United States provide Israel with “air refueling tankers, missile defense capabilities, and specialized munitions.” Israel has sought an air-refueling capacity as a means to cover the distance to Iran in the case of a strike. “Specialized munitions” could include bunker busting bombs that could reach redoubts where Iran is suspected of building a nuclear weapon capability.

During floor debate, Cantor and Hoyer spoke out about the importance of this legislation to boost the U.S.-Israel strategic relationship.

“This bill re-affirms Israel’s right to defend itself against threats and puts Congress on the record about America’s long-standing commitment to the U.S.-Israel strategic relationship, a unique and special relationship founded on shared interests and shared democratic values,” Cantor said during his floor remarks.  “This bill recognizes the profound threats the US and Israel face in the region and reiterates our commitment to standing side by side with Israel during this pivotal and dangerous period of transition and instability.”

Hoyer stated that the legislation was vital to increasing cooperation between the two countries so they “can further deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons capability and work together to combat terrorism that threatens both of our countries.”

“There needs to be a clear understanding by all those who would threaten Israel that the United States stands with her, because it is in our – the United States’s – security interest to do so, and because it is morally and ethically the right thing to do as well,” Hoyer said.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which lobbied for this legislation during its annual policy conference in March, released a statement applauding the bipartisan support for the legislation.

“This vote is a testament to the broad, bipartisan support of the American people for bolstering the ties between the U.S. and our ally Israel,” the AIPAC statement said.  “The United States benefits greatly through enhanced cooperation with Israel, and this bipartisan bill recommends new avenues for the U.S.-Israel relationship to grow and strengthen in the fields of missile defense, homeland security, energy, intelligence, and cyber security.”

The U.S. Senate is considering similar legislation that is sponsored by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).  The legislation has 32 co-sponsors, but no indication has been given as to when it will be taken up by the Senate.

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