Bipartisan act seeks to reaffirm ‘America’s unshakable commitment to Israel’s security’
Last week Israel activated thousands of reservists to help confront the most dangerous set of security challenges in the nation’s 64-year history. That is why the U.S. House of Representatives should immediately reaffirm America’s unshakable support for Israel by passing the U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act (H.R. 4133). That act is expected to come to the House floor this week.
The act, which was introduced by Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), recognizes an unprecedented set of security challenges facing the Jewish nation: Arab political instability, the rapidly growing arsenals of Hamas and Hezbollah, and Iran’s nuclear drive.
In March, Rep. Cantor accused President Barack Obama of sending “mixed messages” to Israel’s enemies about where America stands on numerous conflicts in the Middle East. “Let us not send mixed messages when it comes to Israel,” Cantor said.
Passage of the act, according to Cantor, will affirm the deep military and security ties forged over the past decades between the U.S. and the State of Israel. Further, it will reiterate U.S. policy guaranteeing Israel’s right to defend itself and “America’s unshakable commitment to Israel’s security.”
Consider the confluence of three security crises facing Israel, a nation of 7.6 million that is the size of New Jersey at the heart of the tumultuous Middle East.
First, Israel activated six army battalions under emergency orders in light of new dangers created by Arab political instability along its Egyptian and Syrian borders. The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, has given the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) permission to summon a further 16 reserve battalions if necessary.
“This signifies that the IDF regards the Egyptian and Syrian borders as the potential source of a greater threat than in the past,” said retired General Dan Harel, the former IDF deputy chief of staff. Harel said Egypt’s deteriorating control over the Sinai and the Syrian situation “could explode at any moment.”
Israel’s security challenges in the Sinai are a direct result of Egypt’s ongoing political revolution. Egypt’s new parliament is dominated by anti-Israel Islamists and later this month Egyptians will elect a president from among a list of candidates who all hate Israel.
Egypt’s leading presidential candidate Amr Moussa said the 33-year-old Camp David Peace Accords with Israel are “dead and buried.” But he promised to honor the treaty if elected even though majorities in Egypt’s parliament belong to Islamist parties which favor scuttling the treaty.
The rabidly anti-Israel Egyptian political power surge evidently affected security along the Israel-Egypt 150-mile Sinai border which prompted Jerusalem to call up the reserves. The Sinai Peninsula is now a lawless region for Bedouin gangs and terrorists, who smuggle weapons such as anti-aircraft missile launchers, repeatedly bomb the pipeline carrying gas to Israel, kidnap and kill foreign nationals, and rocket Israel’s Red Sea resort of Eilat.
Israeli intelligence indicate terror groups are planning cross-border attacks from the Sinai and recently 400 armed Bedouins besieged the base of the United Nation’s International Peacekeeping Force in the Sinai. Now, Egyptian battalions are in the Sinai ostensibly to keep the peace but some Israelis fear they are really there to prepare for a future war with Israel.
Jerusalem also fears the revolution rocking its northern neighbor Syria could spill over into Israel’s Golan Heights. Syria’s President Bashir al-Assad is doing whatever necessary to defeat his armed opposition and is expected to survive because no outside power to include the U.S. will intervene. For now, the worst outcome from the Syrian debacle for Israel is the emergence of an Islamist-driven counterinsurgency that spreads throughout the region.
Jordan, Israel’s eastern neighbor, is especially concerned about Syrian Sunni militancy spilling over into Jordan if Assad’s regime collapses. Those Sunni militants who are supported by Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood would inevitably influence their politically active Jordanian counterparts who are already challenging King Abdullah’s reign.
Last week, the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood sponsored protests across the Hashemite Kingdom calling for economic and political reform as well as condemning Israel. The protests were marked by calls to end the 1994 Israeli-Jordanian Peace Treaty and chants of “death, death to Israel.” Israel is rightly concerned about Jordan’s stability.
Second, Israel is sandwiched by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, both Iranian terror proxies that share the goal of annihilating Israel. The leaders of the two terror organizations recently met and agreed to cooperate in any future terror attacks against Israel, the Lebanese daily As-Safir reported.
War with the terror proxies may be just around the corner. Last week Iranian vice president Mohammad Reza Rehimi toured Lebanon’s border visiting Hezbollah fortifications emphasizing the need to oppose “the Zionist regime.” At the same time on the other side of the border IDF troops were preparing for possible attack while building a 20 foot high wall to protect residents of the border town of Metula.
Hezbollah which controls Lebanon south of the Litani River – an area 18 miles north of the Israel-Lebanon border – is ready for a repeat war with Israel. It fought a 34-day sustained battle with Israel in 2006 launching nearly 4,000 rockets. The terror group has a refreshed arsenal thanks to Iran and some of its new rockets can range Tel Aviv, Israel’s largest city.
Hamas, also a U.S. designated terrorist group, controls the Gaza Strip, a part of the Palestinian terrorities inside Israel. Hamas enjoys the support of Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood, which allows arms shipments into the terrorist haven. In 2011, 627 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israeli towns which is higher than in 2010, when 566 rockets were fired. The threat is growing thanks to Egypt and Iran.
Third, Israel faces an existential threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran whose leaders have threatened to “wipe Israel off the map.” There is international consensus that Iran is working on the capability to build nuclear weapons, which earned the rogue nation four sets of international sanctions.
Those sanctions appear to be having some effect but not enough to convince Israel that Iran no longer seeks nuclear weapons. Besides, the direct nuclear threat to Israel posed by Iran’s future atomic-tipped missiles is not the only concern. Jerusalem is also concerned Tehran would share the bomb with terror groups like Hezbollah and/or Hamas for use against Israel and it is concerned a nuclear-armed Iran would spark an irreversible regional arms race.
Last month Iran met with international representatives to alleviate fears it intends to weaponize its nuclear program. As a result of that meeting international representatives agreed to re-launch talks later this month but almost immediately Iranian officials created new barriers to resolution.
Last week, the Iranians told Reuters they will never suspend uranium enrichment or close the Fordow underground facility which is protected from air strikes deep inside a mountain. The international community demands Iran close the Fordow facility and stop enriching uranium for other than nuclear power plants. This crisis is heating up.
The U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act is desperately needed to send an unambiguous message that America is committed to Israel’s security especially as the region implodes around the tiny state.