Sirens, rockets, fear: Israel's unacceptable reality
This op-ed by Congressmen Lee Zeldin, Doug Lamborn and Joe Wilson originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post.
Sirens blasting, rockets exploding, constant fear – that is no way to live. Yet this was the reality for Israeli civilians for 11 days in Tel Aviv, Ashkelon and even Jerusalem. More than 4,000 rockets were launched at Israel by the terrorist group Hamas. In many cases, the rockets are provided to Hamas directly from the Iranian regime, the world’s leading state-sponsor of terror. It is imperative that Congress address this issue.
Historically, the US has enjoyed a close relationship with Israel. For decades, Congress displayed strong bipartisan support for providing defensive capabilities, aid and diplomatic support for the only democracy in the Middle East. In recent defense bills, Congress has consistently provided funding for Iron Dome, counter-tunneling technology and counter-unmanned aerial vehicles (drones). These co-development investments have paid off for both Israel and the US spectacularly. While the need for the Iron Dome system is disheartening, it has been incredibly effective, eliminating roughly 90% of the rockets that have been fired at Israel. The success of the Iron Dome enables Israel to have a more measured response, targeting key Hamas military assets.
The IDF uses its technological edge to target its terrorist enemies despite their practice of collocating with civilians and civilian infrastructure. Israel does everything in its power to warn residents and workers that nearby military targets will be bombed and they should evacuate accordingly. However, Hamas often sends messages encouraging people to stay in the buildings, resulting in unnecessary civilian deaths. Unfortunately, it seems Hamas cares more about propaganda victories than the lives of its people. The US-Israel missile defense partnership has been a monumental success, demonstrated by every engagement of the Iron Dome.
In addition to these important programs, US president Donald Trump signed the Taylor Force Act into law. This legislation was named after Taylor Force, a graduate of West Point and US Army Veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Taylor’s life was senselessly taken by a Palestinian terrorist in 2016. The Taylor Force Act orders that US assistance to the West Bank and Gaza be suspended unless the secretary of state certifies that the Palestinian Authority has halted their “pay to slay” tactics. Over the last few years, the US and Israel partnership has never been stronger, and peace in the Middle East seemed close at hand.
Unfortunately, US President Joe Biden’s knee-jerk desire to embrace Iran puts our nation at odds with the historically close ties we share with Israel, and has contributed to the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. The Biden administration is even restoring hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to Palestinians, skirting the Taylor Force Act. These actions will only further embolden Iran and destabilize the region. President Biden must avoid the disastrous foreign policy failures of the Obama administration.
While Congress has long been a bastion against the antisemitism and anti-Israel animus that infects so many other nations around the world, this takeover of the Democratic Party by the radical Left is straining and damaging our support for Israel. These radicals continually promote the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, and are currently siding with Hamas terrorists and the PA. It is imperative that moderate Democrats resist this misguided drive toward anti-Israel extremism and continue to support policies that would strengthen Israel and restrict the influence of terrorist organizations.
In order to solve the current crisis, Congress must restore its bipartisan support for Israel. Israel has an absolute right to defend itself. We must continue to allow weapon sales, because without precision-guided weaponry, Israel would be forced to use less sophisticated weapons systems, resulting in more civilian casualties. Without American support for systems like Iron Dome and precision-guided munitions, thousands more Israelis would be killed and even more Palestinians. The House of Representatives should condemn the antisemitic remarks of members of the Squad. We must maintain strong bipartisan support for the only democracy in the Middle East.
In the end, it comes down to one simple fact: Israel uses its weapons to protect its people, Hamas uses its people to protect its weapons. Americans would never accept rockets falling on any of our cities, and neither should Israel. House Republicans stand united in their support for Israel. We hope and pray that President Biden and House Democrats continue the historic bipartisan support of our greatest ally in the Middle East, Israel.
Reps. Doug Lamborn (R, CO), Lee Zeldin (R, NY) and Joe Wilson (R, SC) are co-chairmen of the House Republican Israel Caucus.