CONDEMNING THE RECENT ATTACKS AGAINST THE STATE OF ISRAEL
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Mr. GRAVES. Madam Speaker, I rise today in strong support of House Resolution 921 and in strong support of our oldest ally in the Middle East, the State of Israel.
Today the Middle East is a region filled with contradictions. It is a place where progress and regress have both taken root and are thriving. Iraq is no longer ruled over by a tyrant named Saddam Hussein, who terrorized people inside and outside his country with unimaginable brutality. Today, a democratically elected government has been empowered by the Iraqi people to improve security, build infrastructure, and move forward. Admittedly, there is still turmoil in Iraq; but the progress there is undeniable.
In the countries that border Iraq to the east and northwest, one encounters a far different Middle East. It is in these two countries--Iran and Syria--where international terrorism has found all too willing hosts and official state sponsorship. And it is this state sponsorship of terrorism, fueled by the desire of the Tehran and Damascus regimes to project influence across a broader region in order to stifle democracy and freedom, which has led us to the current crisis in Lebanon and Israel.
This is not the first time that Israel has been forced to engage in military operations in Lebanon to secure its northern border and protect its citizens. As many of my colleagues will recall, Lebanon could not control its border with Israel in 1978, and after numerous terrorist attacks against Israel were launched from southern Lebanon, the Israeli Defense Forces intervened. The Israeli Defense Forces withdrew in June 1978, but were forced to return four years later due to further attacks from Lebanese territory. In 1985, Israel withdrew its forces from all of Lebanon, save for a security perimeter on their common border. In 2000, Israel withdrew its remaining forces from the security zone. Immediately thereafter, Hezbollah militia members moved into the former security zone, and claimed credit for the Israeli withdrawal.
Beginning in 2005, the Lebanese people have made significant progress in their mission to push their Syrian occupiers out of their country. In the midst of Lebanon's movement towards true freedom and independence from Syria, Hezbollah terrorists crossed the border into Israel, then killed eight Israelis and took two Israeli soldiers as hostages. This was likely done in coordination with Hamas terrorists in Gaza.
That was July 12, 2006; just one week ago, Madam Speaker. Since then, Israel initiated military operations to prevent further attacks and once again secure its border with Lebanon. Hezbollah's response has consisted of daily rocket attacks that have hit Haifa, Israel's third largest city. It is estimated that Hezbollah has an arsenal of at least 12,000 rockets some of which are Iranian weapons, and many of which have reached Lebanon via Syria.
The United States Department of State has designated Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization, and its main sponsors are Syria and Iran, both of which are state sponsors of terrorism. The Lebanese government may protest Israel's current military actions, but these actions are essential to Israel's national security, and essential to Lebanon's prospects for true sovereignty. Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri spoke out against Syrian domination of Lebanon and was assassinated on orders from the highest levels of the Damascus government. Unless we allow Israel to destroy the terrorist network and infrastructure in Lebanon, and drive its agents back into Syria and Iran, neither the Lebanese people or Israeli people will have the opportunity to live in peace.
The Government of Lebanon cannot secure its own border, and has not prevented the terrorist organizations--sponsored by foreign agents--from using its soil to launch attacks into Israel. Israel has a right to her own national defense, and is exercising that right in striking terrorist targets inside Lebanon. On the other hand, Hezbollah is reigning down rockets on civilian targets in Haifa, Galilee, and Nazareth.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has laid out specific criteria for peace: the return of the abducted Israeli soldiers; cessation of the rocket attacks and other raids on Israel; expulsion of Hezbollah from southern Lebanon and the deployment of the Lebanese Army to that region, and the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanese territory. Short of these criteria being fulfilled, Israel must take it upon herself to unilaterally provide security for her territory and people.
Madam Speaker, Israel is the oldest democracy in a region not known for liberty, and is our oldest ally in a region with many agents that are hostile to America and our interests. We must strongly support our old friend in this time of crisis. We also must condemn Hamas, Hezbollah, and their Iranian and Syrian sponsors in the strongest terms possible for their terrorist attacks on innocent Israelis. As we know all too well, we must hunt down and eradicate terrorists wherever they find sanctuary and assistance, and Israel is doing just that; Israel is taking the fight to the terrorists.
Madam Speaker, this situation proves that Syria and Iran are dangerous agents acting on behalf of and in concert with fundamentalists, extremists, and terrorists. Hezbollah and Hamas have absolutely no remorse for the damage they are inflicting on the Israeli people or the Lebanese people, and the clerics in Tehran and tyrants in Damascus are encouraging continued carnage.
In response, this Congress--as representatives of the American people--must set an example and stand on the side of freedom, democracy, and sovereignty in the face of this challenge. It is the latest confrontation in the Global War on Terror, and it is a battle that we as Americans cannot afford for Israel to lose. I urge my colleagues to support this important resolution.
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