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Recognizing Israel's Right to Defend Itself Against Attacks from Gaza

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


RECOGNIZING ISRAEL'S RIGHT TO DEFEND ITSELF AGAINST ATTACKS FROM GAZA -- (House of Representatives - January 09, 2009

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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. I rise in strong support of House Resolution 34, recognizing Israel's right to defend herself against attacks from Gaza and reaffirming the United States' strong support for Israel.

Madam Speaker, the conflict between Israel and violent Palestinian extremist groups is not, to paraphrase Chamberlain, a quarrel in a faraway country between people of which we know nothing. This conflict is one part of a broader struggle that we're all engaged in, a struggle between liberty and tyranny, between democracy and violent Islamic extremism, between those who love life and those who preach death.

It is a struggle Israel did not seek but one which she must, nonetheless, fight and win. For 8 years, while Israel has sought just and lasting peace and security, Hamas and other Islamic militants have launched thousands of rockets from Gaza against innocents in southern Israel. Israel, a democratic state, chose to exercise remarkable restraint.

Finally, on December 19, Hamas unilaterally broke the calm, the so-called calm, and began launching scores of rockets against Israel. Israel chose to protect itself and her people. Israel has made every effort to prevent civilian casualties and has provided significant humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians. Meanwhile, Hamas has again committed war crimes by placing its militants and its weapons in or at schools, in hospitals, in private homes, and in other civilian buildings.

How has much of the world reacted? Too many states and too many officials in the United Nations have responded by blaming Israel and only Israel. The U.N. swung into action, holding four Security Council meetings in less than 2 weeks, including last night, when it passed a resolution that did not even mention rocket attacks against innocent Israeli civilians, that did not even mention Hamas and its war crimes, and it called for an immediate cease-fire, not a sustainable cease-fire.

Sadly, these officials do not recognize that only Israel would consider itself bound by such an agreement. Hamas would continue to pursue Israel's destruction, and such a devil's bargain without holding Hamas and its state sponsors of terror accountable will only embolden these Islamic extremists to intensify their destructive agenda.

The desire to stop all violence now is understandable. We all desire peace. We all regret the loss of innocent lives on both sides of the conflict, but as the ancient rabbis have stated, those who are merciful to the cruel, as the U.N. has been, will end up being cruel to the merciful, in this case, Israel.

The right way forward is not easy; it is not pleasant, but upon it rests the security of the Israelis, of the Palestinians, of the Americans, and of all freedom-loving people.

The following is my full statement for the RECORD: Madam Speaker, I rise in strong support of House Resolution 34, recognizing Israel's right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza and reaffirming the United States's strong support for Israel.

Madam Speaker, the conflict between Israel and violent Palestinian extremist groups is not, to paraphrase former British leader Neville Chamberlain, a quarrel in a faraway country, between people of which we know nothing.

On the contrary, this conflict is one part of a broader struggle that we are all engaged in--a struggle between liberty and tyranny; between democracy and violent Islamist extremism; between those who love life and those who preach death.

It is a struggle which the United States and Israel did not seek, but which we must, nonetheless, fight and win.

On the outcome, rests our freedom, our security, and our very existence.

Today, this House sends a strong and unequivocal signal that America stands with Israel in its fight to exist.

To some of the "high-minded'' who feel comfortably removed from this struggle, such language is old-fashioned, or out of style, or undiplomatic.

In the United States, Madam Speaker, we prefer to call it the truth.

For 8 years, while Israel has sought just and lasting peace and security, Hamas and other Islamist militants have launched over 8,000 rockets from Gaza against innocents in southern Israel.

Even after Israel took the risk of withdrawing from Gaza in 2005, Hamas rejected peace and chose to use its new sanctuary to plan and carry out more attacks against the Jewish state and its people.

Six months ago, Hamas agreed to a so-called state of ``calm,'' then proceeded to break it repeatedly by using other groups to do its dirty work and fire rockets.

Israel, a democratic state, chose to exercise remarkable restraint.

Finally, on December 19, Hamas unilaterally broke the ``calm'' and began launching scores of rockets into Israel.

Israel chose to protect its people and defend itself.

Hamas and its fellow violent hate-mongers do not seek a few more square miles of land. They do not seek a Palestinian state.

They seek to destroy Israel, impose an Islamist dictatorship in its place, and fight on throughout the world.

Such an outcome is unacceptable to Israel.

It is unacceptable to the United States.

It must be unacceptable to all other responsible nations--because in a compromise between good and evil, only evil benefits.

Israel has made every effort to prevent civilian casualties, and has provided significant humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians.

Meanwhile, Hamas has again committed war crimes by placing its militants and weapons, in or near schools, hospitals, private homes, and other civilian buildings.

In the real world, Hamas's use of civilians as human shields would provoke international condemnation and action to stop this menace.

But how has much of the world reacted?

Too many states, and too many officials at the United Nations, have responded by blaming Israel and only Israel.

Let us remember that in the months and years before Israel started its defensive operation on December 27, the U.N. did not make any meaningful effort to stop the relentless attacks by Hamas or diminish the threat posed by its state sponsors.

But once Israel rose to protect its citizens, the U.N. swung into action, holding four Security Council meetings in less than two weeks, including last night, when it passed a resolution--that did not even mention rocket attacks against Israeli civilians; that did not even mention Hamas and its war crimes; and that called for an immediate ceasefire, not a sustainable ceasefire.

This Security Council resolution and other developments throughout the U.N. system, reflect the short-sightedness and bias that pervade that body.

The so-called President of the U.N. General Assembly called Israel's behavior a "monstrosity,'' and the Secretary-General called for an immediate cease-fire.

Sadly, they do not recognize: that only Israel would consider itself bound by such an agreement; that Hamas would continue to pursue Israel's destruction; and that such a devil's bargain without holding Hamas and its state-sponsors accountable would only embolden these Islamist extremists to intensify their destructive agenda.

The desire to stop all violence now is understandable.

We all desire peace and regret the loss of innocent lives on both sides of the conflict.

But as the ancient rabbis stated, those who are merciful to the cruel (as the U.N. has been) will end up being cruel to the merciful (in this case, Israel).

If the U.N. wants to regain its credibility, it should advance peace and security by moving to compel Hamas and their state sponsors to: immediately stop their attacks, shut down their militant infrastructure, and recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.

Madam Speaker, we've been here before.

In 2006, the violent extremist group Hezbollah kidnapped Israeli soldiers and fired rockets relentlessly against northern Israel.

In response, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution calling for a ceasefire between Israel and the violent extremist group Hezbollah, which would supposedly strengthen the ability of a U.N. force in Lebanon to prevent Hezbollah from rearming.

In the last 2 1/2 years, Israel has held up its end of the deal, while a legitimized Hezbollah has rapidly re-armed under the U.N.'s nose and has, along with its state-sponsors Iran and Syria, increased its control in Lebanon.

As a result, U.S. interests in the region have been damaged.

If we act the same way this time, we will get the same result or worse, and we are running out of second chances. Not again, Madam Speaker.

We must support Israel's right to defend itself by rooting out the Islamist militant infrastructure in Gaza and by ending--not reducing, not postponing, but ending--the threat Hamas poses to Israel's existence; to regional stability; and to global peace and security.

Then, and only then, Madam Speaker, can a ceasefire work.

Consistent with the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, we should also tighten U.S. and international sanctions against Hamas.

Additionally, the U.S. and our allies must seek to stop Iran and Syria from providing financial and other support to Hamas and other violent Islamist extremist groups.

The right way forward is not easy or pleasant, but upon it rests the security of Israelis, Palestinians, Americans, and all other peoples.

With that, Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of our time.

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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Madam Speaker, I would like to yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, I would like to make five simple points that get to the heart of what is happening right now.

First, Israel is a democratic Jewish state that respects human rights and desires peace with its neighbors, innocent civilians, innocent Palestinians included. The jihadists in Gaza continue to terrify thousands of innocent Israelis with their attack, while Israel continues to facilitate the transfer of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Second, Hamas is a hate filled, violent, Islamic militant group that is backed by Iran and Syria regimes and seeks Israel's destruction.

Third, like any sovereign nation, Israel has the right to defend herself, her existence and to protect her citizens from attack, whether by Hamas or Hezbollah or other radical Islamists.

I have been to Sderot, and I have watched as air raid warnings forced the entire population, including children, to hide from an incoming attack.

Fourth, the actions and aims of violent Islamist extremists and their state sponsors is not just a threat to the Middle East peace and security, but to global peace and security. Today it's Hamas, tomorrow Hezbollah, the Taliban, al Qaeda, and so on.

Fifth, the U.S. and Israel are in this together. We have a saying in Spanish about close alliances that describes the U.S. and Israel friendship perfectly, we are two wings of one bird.

We depend on each other for our security and our existence. America and Israel are engaged in a broader conflict throughout the world, a struggle between liberty and tyranny, between those who love life and those who preach death. We did not seek this struggle, but we must win it.

As we stand at this important day in our living history, let us remember the consequences of inaction in the face of evil. For many years, responsible nations turned the other way, refused to accept the reality of what Israel was subjected to.

But no responsible nation could stand by and allow such attacks to continue, allow thousands and hundreds of its people to continue to live in constant fear of being murdered at any moment. No responsible nation could defer its security of its people to entrenched bureaucrats, the European Union, the United Nations, who constantly chastise Israel for taking all necessary actions to protect her own people.

Despite the U.N.'s rhetoric, there is no moral or legal equivalent between militant Islamic extremists who target civilians and a democracy that responds by targeting them. This false moral equivalence only persuades militants to persist in the unlawful action against civilians.

So, Madam Speaker, I hope that the House will carefully consider this resolution, will look at the actual language of the United Nations' resolution that points no finger at Hamas and its violent action and only points its finger at the democratic State of Israel. It's an unbalanced resolution. The United States was correct in not voting in favor of it.

Israel must not abide by it. We all want peace, but Israel wants peace with security as well.

With that, Madam Speaker, I yield back the balance of our time.

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