I remember stepping out onto the ground and lifting my face up to the warm sun. I remember walking the dirt and sand hills where so much history had been made, seeing with my own eyes the ancient ruins. I remember dipping my fingers into the fresh water of the Sea of Galilea. I’ve walked the Golan Heights with vantage points of the Syrian border. I’ve toured an Iron Dome missile battery.
Over the years, I’ve had the distinct privilege of visiting the nation of Israel multiple times. It is a beautiful place – words can hardly do it justice – and at every visit I’ve also been struck by the deep, abiding faith upon which the nation is built. Israel is strong, because it has to be, and gentle, because that is its nature.
On a number of those visits, I’ve had the honor of sitting down with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And at each conversation we’ve had, I’ve looked him in the eye and stated my firm belief: America must stand with Israel.
A unique bond exists between the United States and Israel. It’s a bond that is grounded partly in the common interests our two nations share, and built on a shared past.
The United States was the first nation to formally recognize the state of Israel in 1948. Since then, over the past six decades, Israel has looked to America for diplomatic support and political encouragement. Collectively we share a determination to stand, uncompromising, against those who would seek to destroy the nation.
And so American presidents since that point have recognized – with great esteem – the shared values between our two nations. Israel is one of our most important friends. Our commitment to Israel’s security and prosperity has brought mutual benefit. The ripple effect of this special relationship has brought security and greater stability to Israel’s region, the benefit of which has undoubtedly stretched across the world in ways we may never fully know.
Yet, today our relationship with Israel stands at potentially one of its most fragile point in decades. We have a President who seems bent on prioritizing relationships with hostile nations over our friendship with Israel. The Obama Administration has repeatedly prioritized a relationship with nuclear obsessed Iran; last year’s nuclear agreement threatens Israel and the entire region. The Administration’s failure to respond seriously to Iran’s overt acts of aggression has led to more misbehavior and threats to the nation of Israel and the surrounding region.
The Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Israel – the decade-long agreement that governs our security partnership – is set to expire next year. The Obama Administration has yet to forge a new agreement with Israel, and recent talks suggest that the Administration wants to fix the amount of support so that it can’t be adjusted by Congress.
Grave threats face the free world. Iran’s ongoing quest for nuclear weapons is clear. Its malicious activity in the Arabian Gulf, including its recent detainment of 10 U.S. sailors, gives a small sample of its aggressive nature. At the same time, ISIS and Islamic extremists want nothing more than to see Israel’s destruction. And through it all, Israel has made difficult concessions to bring peace and stability to a region fraught with turmoil.
The result of the President’s lukewarm attitude towards Israel has left the nation in a position for which they will certainly pay a heavy price. The President’s quest to build a legacy of assuaging relationships with hostile nations comes at the expense of a long-standing allied relationship.
To allow the American commitment to the nation of Israel wane is not just shortsighted – it is detrimental to security and U.S. interests in the region. Our message to the rest of the world must be crystal clear – we will never turn our back on Israel or our other allies.
As a senior member of the United States House Armed Services Committee and the Chairman of its Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, one of my priorities is to ensure we maintain an adequate defense partnership with Israel. Just recently, I, along with other members of the Committee, made decisions about what provisions would go into the annual defense policy bill that passed the House this week.
Included in it were several important priorities for our relationship with Israel, including a commitment to work with Israel on missile defense programs like Iron Dome and help Israel develop new technology to defend its people from missile and rocket attacks.
We also have to take a strong stand against nations like Iran that seek to do Israel harm. I continue to be concerned that we are too lenient with Iran. I remain a strong opponent of the Administration’s dangerous nuclear deal and weak response in the face of Iran’s aggression. Just recently, I introduced legislation that condemns Iran’s detention of 10 U.S. sailors and tying the treatment of our servicemembers to future sanctions. I refuse to put hostile nations before the interest of our own citizens, servicemembers, or allies.
Our nation has always set a high bar for our foreign policy. Part of that standard has been maintaining our most critical allied relationships. I will not allow America to turn our back on one of our closest friends.
We need to reaffirm, not reevaluate, our relationship with Israel. We need to view our relationship with Israel as unbreakable, not dissolvable.
Israel is an anchor of stability – for the region, our national security, and the world.
Randy Forbes represents the Fourth District of Virginia in Congress.