This August, I had the honor of visiting Israel with a congressional delegation to renew and strengthen the unique friendship between our two countries, to learn more about their culture firsthand, and to advocate for greater economic cooperation in several areas of joint interest.
Given the unique friendship between the United States and Israel, this trip explored religious and government ties as we toured Israel’s holy sites and met with government officials, business and religious leaders of their government, and Palestinians. There is no more important time to show U.S. support for Israel than now. We have a long-standing, bipartisan tradition of supporting Israel, who is our closest ally in the Middle East.
Stepping foot into the City of David, Ancient Jerusalem was a moving experience, and I was reminded of the shared democratic values between our countries. In 1947, for the first time in 2,000 years, the Israelis were in control of their historical capital. While Jerusalem was under Palestinian rule, no one was allowed to visit the Temple Mount, but today it’s open to people of all religions to visit and worship. This is the way it should be.
On this trip, we met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David M. Friedman to discuss pressing issues in Israel. The Prime Minister was very appreciative of American support for Israel, but we also talked about the rise of anti-Semitic rhetoric in the United States and around the world, including some from members of the U.S. Congress.
Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, and they are constantly under attack. We were told the Palestinian Authority will pay a suicide bomber’s family a monthly stipend if he or she killed Jews. We visited their military bases and saw the Iron Dome defense system, which includes the Arrow 2 and Arrow 3- Israel’s anti-ballistic missiles used for the protection of civilians. Israelis live their day-to-day lives in danger, and joint defense initiatives with the U.S. benefit both our nations’ security.
Congress needs to stand strong with our ally and fight against anti-Semitism. It has no place in our country and must be called out. The Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement is not only dangerous for Jews but is also harmful to many Palestinians that work for Israeli companies.
That is why I made it a priority to cosponsor H.Res. 246, which opposes the BDS movement and other efforts seeking to delegitimize the state of Israel. I am also a proud cosponsor of H.R. 336, the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act.
This bill includes the Combating BDS Act, as well as several other provisions designed to protect our country’s national security interests in the Middle East. The Combating BDS Act would empower state and local governments to combat divestment efforts against Israel. Divestment is a form of economic warfare and attempting to prevent international businesses from interacting with Israel is a direct threat to its security.
We also met with Palestinian and Israeli business leaders and ventured to Ariel, where we visited factories that had both Palestinian and Israeli employees working side by side. We had a long conversation with the Judea-Samaria Chamber of Commerce, which is about 18 months old, and we were very encouraged by the cooperation between people of the two nations.
Additionally, I was surprised to learn that Israel is a net exporter of natural gas. During our trip, Israel was shown to be an extremely innovative country. They have pioneered the ability to extract water from the sea through desalinization of water. Thanks to this technology, 60 percent of the country’s water comes from the ocean, fueling a robust agriculture industry.
Before leaving, Prime Minister Netanyahu left our delegation with my biggest takeaway from the trip. He encouraged us to share the positive cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians that doesn’t receive nearly as much attention as it should.
It is so often that we hear only one side of the story and all the hate that goes on in this world. However, there is hope and cooperation between many Palestinians and Israelis — people of diverse backgrounds working together to make a better world out of a difficult and dangerous situation.
We need to share their story and hopefully their cooperation will be contagious. When voting in Washington D.C., I will continue to support legislative initiatives that make sure the U.S. remains a steadfast friend of Israel.