U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., the chairman of the U.S. House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, scored a win as the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee passed his “United States-Israel Cooperation Enhancement and Regional Security Act” to strengthen the US-Israel relationship, provide justice to victims of terror and allow security and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians to continue. Deutch teamed up with U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-SC, the top Republican on the subcommittee, to introduce the bill earlier this year.
Deutch weighed in on the bill on Wednesday. His remarks are below:
Thank you, Mister Chairman.
I want to commend the committee for bringing up this slate of measures today. I support them.
I want to thank the committee staff for working diligently to produce the texts before us, particularly I’d like to thank Mira Resnick of the majority staff and Gabriella Zach of the minority staff for their work on HR 1837 the US-Israel Cooperation Enhancement and Regional Security Act, my bill with Mr. Wilson to strengthen the US-Israel relationship, to provide justice to victims of terror and to allow security and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians to continue. And I thank the Middle East Subcommittee staff director Casey Kustin for her tireless efforts.
This bill puts Congress on record supporting the unprecedented levels of the 2016 MOU and affirms our unwavering support for the alliance between the United States and Israel. This legislation ensures that Israel has the ability to defend herself from the very real threats posed by terrorist organizations that sit on her borders.
The United States has always maintained a strong commitment to ensuring that our ally can defend herself and this bill highlights the ways in which we guarantee that commitment.
But our alliance is based on more than our mutual security concerns. This bond is rooted in mutual democratic values. Israel is a vibrant democracy where political parties span the spectrum from right to left and vigorously debate and disagree on policy.
That bond has fostered collaboration in many civilian areas like water and agriculture, which have yielded dramatic advancements with global impact.
This legislation strengthens existing programs for science and energy research and promotes the US and Israel working together to deliver humanitarian aid in developing countries, and it expands new areas of civilian cooperation.
The legislation creates new avenues for regional cooperation in the high-tech sector, bringing together Israeli and Palestinian researchers, along with regional Arab countries, for projects that will have a lasting impact on the entire region.
Finally, this bill is a step toward providing American victims of terrorism with a path to justice.
In 2018, Congress unanimously passed the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act that was meant to allow American victims of Palestinian terror attacks the ability to pursue justice in US courts. But an overly broad interpretation resulted in the Palestinians rejecting any US assistance coming into the West Bank and Gaza instead of consenting to jurisdiction.
This had the unintended consequence of placing a legal barrier to the delivery of security and humanitarian and development assistance to the West Bank and Gaza.
US security assistance provides training for Palestinian Security Forces to secure the West Bank and facilitate security coordination between Israel and the PA. This training program in the West Bank has resulted in dramatically lower security incidents.
I was just in Israel two weeks ago and met with the three-star US General in charge of security coordination. And in the absence of this funding, security for Israelis and Palestinians is threatened by the current status and we must pass this.
Removing this barrier to assistance will also help restore life-saving humanitarian aid that went not to Palestinian leadership but to the Palestinian people through American NGOs. I visited a hospital in East Jerusalem that provides life-saving cancer treatment to patients from the West Bank. That hospital has lost 25 percent of its budget.
All of this assistance promotes security and stability. We have a moral obligation to make sure that we proceed with this. We have a moral obligation to have life-saving assistance flow and to making sure that victims of terror have the opportunity to be in court.
I also thank my colleagues for House Resolution 246 which simply states that Congress opposes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel movement.
BDS undermines the prospects for a two-state solution and, as House Resolution 326 affirms, the path toward peace lies in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, leading to two states for two peoples living side by side in peace and security – a safe and secure Israel and demilitarized, prosperous Palestinian state.
BDS does nothing to further that goal. It does nothing to encourage both sides to return to negotiations and to achieve lasting peace.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, as was said earlier, the resolution doesn’t restrict any first amendment rights, it simply allows members of Congress to be on the record opposing a movement that attempts to delegitimize Israel’s very right to exist.
Time and time again, I hear from college campuses around the country, from students. They are Zionists. So am I. They support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. So do I. And they feel intimidated and scared to express that support when people are threatening them.
“Palestine from the river to the sea?” A chant that is routinely heard at BDS rallies? It envisions a world without Israel. That’s what is controversial. I reject it. This committee should reject it, and the whole House should have the opportunity to reject it as soon as possible.
I thank the chairman and I yield back the balance of my time.