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Politico: Constant Partners For Changing Times

Op-Ed

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The revolution sweeping Egypt is inspiring. However, with change comes uncertainty. Despite the rapidly shifting events in the Middle East, one thing remains constant: Israel's commitment to democracy and peace.

It is not enough for the United States to maintain its relationship with Israel. It must work to strengthen this key partnership at this critical time. As Congress considers the pending funding bills, it is essential that the United States follow through on its promises to Israel and that its assistance remains steady.

For decades, Israel has been a dependable U.S. ally and beacon for democracy in an otherwise authoritarian neighborhood. Washington has had the difficult job of promoting human rights in the region, while prioritizing peace among these diverse nations.

The upheaval in Egypt has given the United States the opportunity to re-evaluate its partnership with a government that historically has violated basic human rights. The United States now has a renewed focus in Egypt: to support a democratic transition to power. However, this is not likely to be an easy path.

It is essential that we encourage not only a democratically elected government in Egypt but, particularly, a government that respects the rights, freedoms and civil liberties of all of its people. It is imperative that no government in Cairo hijacks power and oppresses certain populations of Egyptians or intimidates its peaceful neighbors. These are the fundamental benchmarks that will measure the success of a new Egyptian government.

During this transition, it is more important than ever that the United States supports a strong relationship with Israel. In reinforcing our relationship with the only true democracy in the region, we can show our commitment to the democratic principles needed to ensure peace and stability in the Middle East.

As the Egyptian people seek free and fair elections and the establishment of a new government, some are questioning the future of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. Some in Egypt have talked about rescinding the agreement, and many fear that anti-Israeli sentiments could rise in that nation.

To counter these fears, the United States must sternly stand with Israel and the people of Egypt in clearly reinforcing that the development of a radical government in Egypt will not be accepted. As an ally and close friend of Israel, it is our responsibility to assist in her efforts to maintain peace with Egypt and secure her borders.

A collapse of the peace treaty between these two nations could lead to an increasingly militarized border -- and region. This could redraw the entire military landscape -- placing additional stress on these nations and the United States.

Over the years, Israel's peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan have allowed all three nations to reduce security spending, while increasing expenditures on crucial social programs and infrastructure. The deterioration of this treaty very likely sets back these gains and poses a further challenge to the goal of peace in the region.

Here in the House, many in the new Republican majority plan to trim billions of dollars from the federal budget -- including significant cuts to foreign aid. These cuts could negatively affect Israel and the stability of the Middle East during this transition.

Some members of Congress have even proposed cutting all military assistance to Israel. Threats and responsibilities do not stop at our borders. The small portion of the U.S. budget spent on foreign aid is an investment in reducing future military spending.

While reducing government spending is necessary, a blind cut to foreign assistance is reckless. This funding must be maintained while we address our budget challenges. Foreign assistance to Israel is an investment in peace and stability. Now is the time to strengthen the U.S. relationship with Israel -- and for Congress to show true leadership in smart foreign policy.


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