Since Israel’s founding, it has received bipartisan support from American lawmakers and citizens alike. In particular, after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, President Richard Nixon recognized Israeli regional military dominance, as well as the need to prevent future disruption of Mideast oil flows. This led to expansion of Pax Americana to the Mediterranean/Persian Gulf through a strategic alliance with Israel. Historian Martin Kramer noted, “Since 1973, the Arab states have understood not only that Israel is strong, but that the United States is fully behind it.”
Relative peace prevailed without any U.S. boots on the ground in Israel.
In fact, with American support, Israel entered into peace agreements with Egypt in 1978 and Jordan in 1994; and under the Trump administration, Israel signed the Abraham Accords with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, and Morocco – with expectations that additional Arab countries would join in the near future.
Not only does unconditional U.S. support for Israel lead to peace in the region, it also has helped – and continues to help – U.S. national security by having a powerful ally on the frontlines of the war on terror. Israel’s military, intelligence, experience, technology, and medical advancements (most especially on the battlefield) have helped save American lives both abroad and at home.
Recognizing Israel not just as the only democracy in the region and a country with similar values, culture, and respect for human rights, but as a strategic asset to the United States, bipartisan support for this alliance existed for decades. In 2010 for instance, 337 members of the House of Representatives wrote a bipartisan letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressing their strong support for Israel and 76 Senators sent a separate letter stating:
Israel continues to be the one true democracy in the Middle East that brings stability to a region where it is in short supply. Whether fighting Soviet expansionism or the current threats from regional aggression and terrorism, Israel has been a consistent, reliable ally and friend and has helped to advance American interests.
Just over a decade later, after eight years of an Obama administration that pursued a new policy of putting daylight between the U.S. and Israel and ending the Pax Americana that had bolstered stability in the region for decades, bipartisan support of Israel has been waning. This is a disturbing development not only for Israel but also the U.S.
Israel as a Partisan Issue
Israel is now a partisan issue, not just at the executive level but in Congress as well. The vast majority of Republican lawmakers provide strong support for a close U.S.-Israel relationship, an understanding of the need to continue to provide military support for Israel (75 percent of which is spent in the U.S. on American-manufactured equipment) including funding for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system, and a willingness to fight burgeoning antisemitism that has led to violence against Jews across the globe.
At the same time, there is a growing contingent in the Democrat Party that harbors not only animosity toward the only Jewish state, but also makes antisemitic statements and has associated with Jew-haters. Today’s antisemitism often is couched in anti-Zionist language but members of the congressional Democrats’ progressive caucus, including the infamous “Squad,” have made outright antisemitic statements without significant repercussions. In fact, some have been elevated to important committee assignments, such as Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) on the House Financial Services Committee.
This growing anti-Israel Democrat contingent in Congress is preventing important pieces of legislation from either passage or implementation that would help both Israel and the Jewish people. For instance, Congress, with the help of our organization, the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), passed the Taylor Force Act, which requires defunding the Palestinian Authority (PA) until it stops rewarding terrorists for killing Jews. But the Biden administration is refusing to enforce the Act and Congress has failed to ensure its implementation.
Furthermore, when the House attempted to pass a resolution condemning Rep. Omar for antisemitic comments, the measure was diluted until it referred generally to all forms of hate, and Omar was not specifically censured.
A new alliance is emerging among China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran, and their antipathy toward the United States is the cement that holds these disparate regimes together. It is essential, then, that military and intelligence cooperation between the United States and the state of Israel continue and advance.
A 25-year $400 billion cooperation program between China and Iran creates a formidable danger for the United States and its allies in the Middle East and elsewhere. China is ahead of the U.S. in development of hypersonic anti-missile technology. Hypersonic missiles use lasers and at fly five times the speed of sound, making them impossible to detect using conventional radar. U.S.-Israel military Research & Development (R&D) cooperation helps the U.S. remain globally competitive.
As the United States retrenches, and if it completes the often-mentioned “pivot to Asia,” it will need to rely even more on Israeli military and security forces as “eyes and ears” in the Middle East. Therefore, appropriations that encourage further technological and intelligence sharing and joint maneuvers between American armed forces and the Israeli military will be a net advantage for the United States. And the might of the U.S. will serve as a reminder to Iran, perhaps no more than weeks away from a nuclear weapons breakout, to restrain itself.
Academia, with significant influence on Congress, the news media, and the public, poses a difficult set of issues. For a brief period after al-Qaeda’s terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, most Americans understood that our enemies mean business. However, in part due to the anti-Western influence of “anti-imperialist” and anti-Zionist Middle East and international relations departments in American universities, and the spread of that influence through news and entertainment media, many in the foreign policy establishment have convinced themselves that once Palestinian Arabs rid themselves of Israeli occupation, they will be favorably inclined toward the United States.
But Palestinian leadership always has thrown its support behind America’s enemies, from Nikita Khrushchev to Fidel Castro to Qassim Soleimani. Moreover, since the early 20th century, long before the 1967 Six-Day War, the Palestinian aspiration has been to hold all the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, eliminating Israel.
Issues on Campus
EMET has worked to overcome educational biases within the classroom, including promoting passage of amendments to Title VI of the Higher Education Act that call for “a balance of perspectives” and “wide range of viewpoints” in taxpayer-funded Middle Eastern Studies programs. However, these amendments have been almost totally ignored, and anti-Israel biases are almost “baked into” the teaching of Middle Eastern studies on many American college campuses.
The Trump administration had used the amendments to attempt to withhold money for a particularly heinous tax-supported event sponsored at the University of North Carolina together with Duke University. However, after a letter from the university to the Office of Civil Rights promising better behavior, the program was reinstated. Congress must make sure such programs are held accountable and tax funds are not used to support biased Middle East studies efforts.
Not only in the classroom but also broadly on campus, American Jewish and Zionist students have been intimidated and demonized for their support of the Jewish state, and in more than a few instances, forced to choose between their Zionism and their acceptance into student government and university clubs. Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act makes no mention of religion, but of “race, color or national origin.” EMET worked in the past with Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Bob Casey (D-PA) to introduce the Antisemitism Awareness Act that would give Jewish students the same rights on university campuses as any other minority group. Now, with antisemitism steadily migrating from the college campus to the town square, this issue must be readdressed.
The West Bank – Judea and Samaria – is disputed territory subject to negotiation. But the Palestinian’s aspiration is not to end what they call “the occupation” of that territory, but to eliminate Israel. That is clear in the cry, “Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea!” Such anti-Israel incitement, banned by the 1993 Oslo Accords, nevertheless is taught incessantly in Palestinian and UNRWA schools. Such indoctrination helps to ensure that peaceful relations between Israelis and Palestinians will remain a distant dream.
For the past several decades, there have been constant legislative attempts to review Palestinian textbooks and to cease all aid to the Palestinians until they stop hate education. However, highly paid lobbyists for UNRWA have been white-washing the textbooks, and U.S. taxpayers’ dollars continue to fund UN-sponsored anti-Israel, anti-Jewish propaganda.
The United Nations itself was founded in the immediate aftermath of World War II, upon the loftiest of principles. Yet in the 77 years since its establishment, it has strayed far from its high-minded purpose. Most recently, the UN Human Rights Council voted for a permanent, open-ended Commission of Inquiry against Israel, which will have an initial cost of $10 million, and $5 million every year thereafter. American taxpayer funds are expected to support this anti-Israel bigotry.
The Taylor Force Act
The Palestinian Authority has a lavish system of payments to the families of terrorists who have been “martyred,” or to the terrorists themselves in prison. It is an intricate system, but, in essence, the more Israelis or Americans they kill, the more is paid out to them.
The Taylor Force Act was passed by Congress and signed into law in 2018. It is named for an American Army commander who had returned safely from tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, only to be stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist while walking near the beach in Tel Aviv. The purpose of this federal law is to deduct the payments that the PA routinely makes to terrorists or their families from U.S. aid.
The Biden administration has totally overlooked and ignored both the letter and the spirit of the Taylor Force Act. In 2022, the administration provided the PA with nearly $1 billion, violating the law with impunity. In November, EMET helped with a congressional letter signed by 38 Republican members demanding a response to this and other issues.
Courageous dissidents on the streets of Iran have risked everything, including their very lives, to overthrow their brutal, suffocating theocracy. As of this writing, nearly 500 Iranian protesters have been killed, including more than 50 children. The Iranian parliament, the Majles, instituted the death penalty for anti-regime demonstrators. As the mullahs are increasingly threatened, they have become increasingly brutal. The administration’s support for the dissidents has been muted, and the new Congress should hold hearings on this matter.
Between the demonstrations that have rocked Iran and Iran’s sale of drones to Russia, which the Russians have used in their war in Ukraine, it might be assumed that the administration has abandoned its hope for a renewed nuclear agreement with Tehran. Such a pact would only reward the regime with billions of dollars that would be used for Tehran’s nuclear program, ballistic missile development system, sponsorship of international terrorism, and further suppression of the rights of Iran’s people.
Although in September 2022, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called a near-term agreement “unlikely,” in October, he said, “We still believe diplomacy is the best path forward.”
Israeli policymakers and analysts understand what they are up against and firmly believe that Iran is developing intercontinental ballistic missiles not simply to reach from Tehran to Tel Aviv, but from Tehran to Washington, DC. And they know that like all zealots, the regime’s hegemonic aspirations know no bounds. However, because of the current mood of retrenchment within the United States, it looks as if Israel might possibly be alone to do the heavy lifting when it comes to the Iranian nuclear threat. Members of the new Congress must connect the dots regarding Iran’s danger not just to Israel but also to the United States. Israel is their “Little Satan.” America is the “Great Satan.”
The new Congress needs to affirm that Washington and Jerusalem, together, make possible a more stable, prosperous, pro-Western Middle East.
Lauri B. Regan is EMET’s New York Chapter President and serves on its Board of Directors and Board of Advisors, and Sarah Stern is EMET’s Founder and President.