Howard Berman, the chairman of the House’s Foreign Affairs Committee, is telling fellow Dems to make the case (ahead of nailbiting November midterm) that it’s never been better for Israel under President Obama and the Democratic Congress.
Here’s our brief:
WASHINGTON (JTA) — Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) distributed talking points to fellow Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives stressing support for Israel by President Obama and Democrats.
Thursday’s memo declared that Obama and the House Democrats’ support for Israel are both unprecedented. Berman is chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and is Jewish.
“I think you will find [this document] useful to make the case that House Democrats and the President are as good if not better than any Congress or Administration that has come before,” Berman said in an email to Democrats in Congress.
Republicans bidding for the Jewish vote in November’s midterm elections are trying to tie Democratic Party candidates to Obama, in the wake of months of tension over Israel’s settlement policies. The two governments say they have now put the tensions behind them.
The approximately two dozen talking points emphasized that Obama has stressed the need for Palestinians to recognize the Jewish character of the state and that he has made Iran a top priority in every meeting with world leaders. They drew attention to Obama’s commitment to providing Israel with financial and military aid.
The statement listed the bills and resolutions passed in the House since October 2009 regarding Israel. Among these was a resolution in January 2009 stating that Israel has a right to defend herself, and a bill sanctioning Iran in June.
Below the jump, Berman’s short note to his colleagues, and the talking points.
Please find the attached document which outlines President Obama and the House Democratic Caucus’ unprecedented support for the State of Israel. I think you will find it useful to make the case that House Democrats and the President are as good if not better than any Congress or Administration that has come before. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me or the staff of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Rep. Howard Berman
Chairman, Committee on Foreign Affairs
The Democratic-Led Congress and President Obama Provide Unprecedented Support for Israel
• More than any of his predecessors, this President has repeatedly talked about the importance of the Palestinians’ recognizing the – quote — “Jewish” state of Israel.
• President Obama is leading the global push to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The President has stated that it is “unacceptable” for Iran to obtain a nuclear weapons capability. Recently, thanks to the Obama Administration’s hard work, the United Nations Security Council passed a fourth round of sanctions (UNSCR 1929), the strongest yet — a remarkable diplomatic achievement. UNSCR 1929 brought Russia and China on board for UN sanctions on Iranian arms purchases; Iran’s banking, finance, shipping, and energy sectors; and designations of the IRGC and other proliferation-related entities.
• President Obama has spent more time trying to block Iran’s nuclear ambitions than any other foreign policy issue and it’s something he raises as his top priority in virtually every conversation with world leaders.
• President Obama and Democrats in Congress have provided Israel with every single penny of foreign assistance appropriations that Israel has asked for. In 2007, the United States and Israel signed a 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that calls for the U.S. to provide $30 billion in security assistance over the following 10 years. President Barack Obama has strongly supported the 2007 agreement. As part of his fiscal year 2010 budget, the President requested $2.775 billion in aid to Israel, which completely fulfills the second year of the MOU. This year the President asked for $3 billion in aid to Israel, and the Congress will make certain the President’s request is fulfilled.
• Under President Obama, Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge, or QME, is being reestablished, after having been neglected for too many years, and the U.S. and Israel have achieved new levels of close security cooperation. Later this year, the Pentagon is likely to sell Israel an initial batch of 25 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, the most advanced aircraft in the U.S. arsenal, and other sensitive technology.
• Prime Minister Netanyahu noted on July 7, 2010, that: “The alliance between Israel and the US is stable and strong. It has the support of the American administration and people. My visit to the US last week gave tangible expression to strength and durability of this unbreakable bond. In my meeting with the US President, we had a comprehensive and excellent discussion in which we covered a broad range of issues.”
• The Obama Administration has demonstrated its hard-nosed support of Israel at international forums and its uncompromising and effective opposition to efforts to de-legitimize Israel. For example, the Administration has led a global effort to prevent the Goldstone Report from gaining traction or credibility within the international community. That ill-conceived, biased report still has life in the UN system, and the Administration is fighting it tooth-and-nail.
• The Obama Administration is opposing attempts to launch a politically-tainted international investigation into Israel’s self-defensive measures in stopping the Turkish-led flotilla to Gaza. The Administration has stood behind its ally Israel in supporting Israel’s own investigation.
• The Obama Administration refused to participate in the Durban-Two conference on racism last year strictly because of its intention to single out Israel unfairly. That must have been a very difficult decision for a newly-inaugurated African-American President, but President Obama stood impressively firm.
• The Obama Administration played a critical role in achieving a unanimous, 31-0, vote at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, to ensure Israel’s accession to one of the world’s most exclusive economic associations . Thanks to the Administration’s help in bringing Israel into the OECD, Israel will be able to advance its economy to unprecedented levels.
• President Obama’s famous Cairo speech marked an Arab world first: an unprecedentedly strong affirmation of the – quote – “unshakeable” bond between the U.S. and Israel and an unprecedentedly frank discussion of the Holocaust, in the heart of a region rife with Holocaust denial. As Ambassador Michael Oren said of the Cairo speech: “This is a President who has gone to Cairo, has made a speech in which, for the first time in history, an American leader introduced the idea of Israel’s legitimacy to the heart of the Arab World.”
• In the first eighteen months of the Obama Administration, there have been numerous separate high-level visits of US officials to Israel. The visitors include Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, National Security Advisor James Jones, CIA Director Leon Panetta, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen. This type of high-level attention is reserved for only the closest allies.
• The United States and Israel recently completed their largest-ever joint military exercise. The three-week Juniper Cobra 10 air defense exercise involved deployment of a thousand U.S. troops, from all four branches of service, alongside an equal number of Israel Defense Forces personnel, taking part in simulated war games intended to ensure the two countries can jointly respond to a crisis. The Juniper Cobra exercises involved the use of the long-range X-band radar, the most advanced system in the world for warning of missile-launches.
• The Obama Administration has integrated U.S. missile defense technology into Israel’s expanding anti-missile shield. This is something that no other American President has done, and it is a move of immense strategic importance that has largely been overlooked by the Jewish community and by the foreign-affairs community at-large. The Administration also will continue to fund development of the Arrow-3, the most advanced variant of Israel’s long-range, high-altitude system for countering Iranian ballistic missiles.
• President Obama asked Congress for $205 million to support Israel’s deployment of the Iron Dome rocket defense system, which will reduce the threat from Hamas’ and Hezbollah’s short-range rockets. The $205 million requested by the Administration, and quickly authorized by the House of Representatives (H.R. 5327 “United States-Israel Rocket and Missile Defense Cooperation and Support Act” – introduced by Rep Nye (D-VA)), is in addition to the $3 billion budgetary request the Administration had already made for security assistance for Israel.
• In October 2009 the Turkish government withdrew landing rights from Israel in Turkey and refused to allow Israel to participate in a NATO exercise. In protest, the Obama Administration withdrew US forces from the exercise.
• The Obama Administration has reaffirmed sanctions against Syria and strongly condemned Syria’s transfer of Scud missiles and other arms to Hezbollah. Israeli Defense Minister Barak is regularly in Washington, DC, to meet with President Obama and Defense Secretary Gates to discuss the close US-Israel coordination on military and intelligence issues concerning Syria, Iran, and other threats.
• In June 2010, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2194, The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010, a bill introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA). Signed into law by President Obama July 1, the new measure introduces an array of tough new economic sanctions and penalties aimed at persuading Iran to end its nuclear weapons program. Targets of the Act range from business entities involved in refined petroleum sales to Iran or support for Iran’s domestic refining efforts to international banking institutions involved with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran’s illicit nuclear program or its support for terrorism. The bill augments the sanctions regime envisioned in the earlier versions of the Act passed by the House and the Senate in December 2009 by supplementing the energy sanctions in those versions with an additional, powerful set of banking prohibitions. It also plugs an important gap in our sanctions regime by sanctioning companies that sell Iran goods or services that help it develop its energy sector.
• In January 2009, the House of Representatives passed H.Res.34 which recognizes Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza, reaffirms the United States’ strong support for Israel, and supports the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. H.Res.34 was introduced by the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
• In June 2009, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2410, the “Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal years 2010 and 2011”. This bill, introduced by Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), authorizes appropriations to Israel; amends the Arms-Export Control Act to authorize the President to export spare and replacement parts or components of defense items to Israel; amends the Arms Export Control Act to require the Administration to certify that an arms sale to another Middle Eastern country does not threaten Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME); authorizes appropriations for co-development of missile defense projects with Israel, including the Arrow, David’s Sling, and Iron Dome systems; and expresses the sense of Congress that Israel has the inalienable right to defend itself in the face of an imminent nuclear or military threat from Iran as well as from terrorist organizations and the countries that harbor them.
• In October 2009, the House of Representatives passed H.R.1327, the “Iran Sanctions Enabling Act of 2009”. This bill, introduced by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), authorizes state and local governments to divest their portfolios of companies that invest in Iran. It is now a part of the new Iran sanctions law (H.R. 2194).
• In October 2009, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2647, the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010. This bill, introduced by Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO), expresses the sense of Congress that: (1) Israel is one of the strongest allies of the United States; (2) the United States remains vigorously committed to supporting Israel’s welfare, security, and survival; (3) Israel and the United States face common enemies; and (4) the United States should continue to provide Israel the critical security assistance it needs to address existential threats.