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Senate softens resolution pressing Obama to help Israel in Iran strike

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee moderated language in a resolution that had called on President Obama to assist Israel should it strike Iran.

The committee on Tuesday sent to the full Senate a resolution that reiterates backing for the close U.S.-Israel relationship and for sanctions targeting Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.

It also "urges that, if the Government of Israel is compelled to take military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the United States Government should stand with Israel and provide, in accordance with United States law and the constitutional responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence."

The language in the original resolution, introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), had spoken only of "self-defense," not "legitimate self-defense," and did not mention the requirement of Congress’ authority to authorize the use of force.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the committee chairman, and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), its senior Republican, introduced the new language in an amendment.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee praised the passage of the resolution out of committee.

"The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has sent a very clear and enormously important message of solidarity with Israel against the Iranian nuclear threat — which endangers American, Israeli, and international security," the pro-Israel lobby said in a statement. "AIPAC urges the full Senate to act expeditiously to adopt the resolution."

An AIPAC official told JTA that the changes were not substantive and merely "clarified" the original language.

The resolution includes the usual caveat saying that "nothing in this resolution shall be construed as an authorization for the use of force or a declaration of war." Lawmakers in recent years have been especially cautious about not being seen as authorizing war, a reluctance stemming in part from political repercussions for backing the Iraq War.

A number of dovish groups, including Americans for Peace Now, had lobbied for the changes proposed by Menendez and Corker.

"APN welcomes both the mark-up of the resolution — similar resolutions are often brought directly to the Senate floor for a vote, without any committee consideration – and the changes made to the measure," the group said a statement. "If passed in its original form, the resolution could have become a ‘backdoor to war’ with Iran, giving a green light for Israeli military action against Iran, which would almost certainly compel the U.S. to join the fight."

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