Letter to Constituents

Letter

By:  Howard Berman
Date: June 25, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

Coalition to Stop 30 Billion to Israel
PO Box 10856
Albuquerque, NM 87184

To Whom It May Concern:

As a member of the Los Angeles Congressional delegation, and the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, I have heard from many of my constituents in the San Fernando Valley concerned about the numerous billboard advertisements your organization has placed throughout the LA area. As a strong supporter of the Constitution, I do not question your right to publicly air your views -- even if I must drive past them every morning. However, as a Member of Congress who represents a community that overwhelmingly values the strong bond between Washington and Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent and allow your anti-Israel message to go unanswered.

Having worked to put into permanent law portions of the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the United States and Israel, which lays out the terms of the security assistance between our two countries, it is clear to me that you have a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship. As a small nation surrounded by countries and terrorist groups that are committed to its destruction, Israel faces unparalleled security challenges. Not only is our security assistance program a signal to the Israeli people that America stands side by side with the Jewish state, it also serves as a strong military deterrent to others in the region who might otherwise follow through on their threats to wipe Israel off the map.

In addition to the strategic importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, it is critical to understand that we as a country have made this commitment to Israel's security. If we were to unilaterally eliminate our security assistance to Israel, what would that say about America's role in the world, and our reliability as a friend and ally? We are the leading voice in the international community, and have the world's most powerful military, yet your organization would have us abandon our closest ally in the Middle East and allow its deterrent capability to wither on the vine. That is not the way to demonstrate international leadership.

Your billboard would also have one believe that the Congress simply appropriates funds to transfer to the government of Israel -- in supposed contravention of our own economic and national security interests. Rather, the vast majority of funding earmarked for Israel security assistance is used to procure U.S. manufactured defense articles produced in America. All told, the Israel security assistance program is responsible for an estimated 6,700 jobs across the U.S. -- including nearly 500 right here in California.

Finally, our security cooperation has proven to be a technological boon to both the Israel Defense Forces and the U.S. military. As the author of the Iron Dome Support Act, legislation which authorizes increased assistance to deploy additional Iron Dome anti-missile defense batteries in Israel, I have seen firsthand how security cooperation between our two countries has produced innovative new tools that will undoubtedly save countless civilian lives.

I share the hope that one day Palestinians and Israelis can live together in peace. Perhaps that is why I was so perplexed to see your billboard in my community. I would suggest that it would be more productive to direct your considerable energy and resources in the direction of Ramallah rather than Los Angeles, and convince Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to agree to direct peace negotiations with Israel. After all, the government of Israel has made clear that it is ready to sit down and negotiate without preconditions at any time. I would welcome the opportunity to jointly send a letter with your organization to President Abbas imploring him to take up Prime Minister Netanyahu's offer and return to the negotiating table.

Sincerely,

HOWARD L. BERMAN
Member of Congress