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Public Statements

The Israeli Blockade and the Flotilla

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. MAFFEI. I thank the gentleman from New York. I also thank the gentleman from Florida for his graciousness.

Mr. Speaker, I want to address exactly what the gentleman from New York (Mr. Weiner) was talking about and, that is, Iran's involvement and what we can do about it. Indeed, it has been since 2007 that Israel, along with Egypt, has instituted this blockade of the Gaza strip to stop individuals from smuggling weapons, and over the course of the blockade, as we have already talked about, Israeli defense forces have diverted numerous ships, all without incident. Nobody ever wishes for fatalities or injuries to occur during the enforcement of a blockade, but the fundamental thing to understand is that Israel has the same right to self-defense as any country.

Days before the incident, Israel notified Turkey and other governments participating that it would not allow flotillas to breach the blockade at Gaza, and as Mr. Weiner indicated at the beginning of this hour, humanitarian aid was allowed to be off-loaded in the Port of Ashdod.

I am confident that the Israeli government will conduct a full and credible investigation regarding this incident, and it is imperative that we draw on the special relationship that endures between the United States and Israel and continue to stand by our ally.

But I'm even more concerned that the media circus surrounding this incident may distract us from the real threat that Iran continues to pose, not just to Israel, not even just to its neighbors, but to the entire world, including the United States. The blockade was largely due to Iran's continued efforts to smuggle weapons, and we must keep an eye on that.

Now, in fact, the U.N. Security Council actually passed a resolution today, Resolution 1929, which imposes new sanctions against Iran because of its suspected nuclear weapon program, the Revolutionary Guard, ballistic missiles, and nuclear-related investments. The resolution does expand on three previous sanctions on Iran by strengthening and expanding existing measures and breaking ground in several new areas.

What the majority leader said about the United Nations is correct. We must always be somewhat skeptical about their resolutions. So the fact that even the United Nations is now passing this resolution should indicate a strong message about how dangerous Iran continues to be.

It is increasingly important that the United States stand with the State of Israel and impose even stronger sanctions than the U.N. has. A nuclear-capable Iran poses a major threat to the entire world. By combining a nuclear weapon with a current missile program, Tehran would be capable of targeting American troops and its allies throughout the Middle East and beyond.

Iran is one of the leading sponsors of terrorism and continues to spout anti-Semitic rhetoric regarding the State of Israel. President Obama has stated all options should remain on the table for dealing with Iran. However, currently tough sanctions that are strictly enforced remain the best option to try to persuade Iran's leaders to do away with their nuclear program.

Both Chambers of the 111th Congress have already passed Iran sanctions legislation. Currently, the conference committee has been working on reconciling these different bills. The legislation would increase pressure on Iran by restricting their ability to purchase or refine petroleum products. Despite being one of the largest producers of crude oil in the world, Iran lacks adequate refining capability to meet its own domestic needs for gasoline.

I believe only a consistent and appropriately tough sanctions policy will give the level of pressure on the current despotic State of Iran that has any chance of persuading Iran to drop its nuclear ambitions. The refusal of Iran to accept the existence of the State of Israel helped lead to the unrest in Gaza which helped lead to this incident.

The U.N. Security Council resolution is a good step, but America has an obligation to lead and not just follow.

I really thank the gentleman from New York for his indulgence.

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