Today Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, submitted the following statement for the record on the House Foreign Affairs Committee's passage of H.R. 938, the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013, which she introduced earlier this year along with the Ranking Member Ted Deutch (D-FL). Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
"I'm pleased that this bipartisan bill to strengthen the U.S. bond with Israel passed unanimously today out of the Foreign Affairs Committee. During this volatile time across the Middle East, this bill signals that the U.S. Congress continues to support the people of Israel and reaffirms our commitment to seek new paths to improve our bilateral relationship.
"This important legislation, with 351 current cosponsors, declares that Israel is a major strategic partner, ensures that Israel maintains its qualitative military edge, and reaffirms our support to enhance Israel's military systems to that it can defend herself."
Ros-Lehtinen's full statement submitted for the record:
"Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Engel, for marking up the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act. And thanks to my committee colleagues who have cosponsored this important bill, sponsored by Congressman Deutch and me.
Our bill has the cosponsorship of nearly every Member of this committee, and it has over 350 cosponsors in total -- which shows just how strong the bipartisan support for this bill is.
Thanks also to your staff Mr. Chairman for the hard work and effort in making sure this goes as smoothly as possible; especially Matt Zweig - he has put in a tremendous amount of time working with both my and Ted's staff, and has done a great job, and I just want to make sure everyone gets the recognition they deserve.
This bill is a timely and extremely crucial bill because it sends an important message to the world, and to our close friend and ally, the democratic Jewish State of Israel that our bilateral relationship is strong and only getting stronger.
There is a campaign of misinformation that has surrounded this bill in recent days in which some groups and reports suggest that this bill could allow Israel to discriminate against Arab Americans. This bill, in no way, shape or form, changes existing law with regard to the Visa Waiver Program, and would do no such thing.
Existing U.S. law already stipulates that any country that seeks entry to the Visa Waiver Program must satisfy all of the criteria, which includes reciprocal privileges to citizens and nationals of the United States. Our bill simply reaffirms our support for Israel to be included in this program only once it fulfills the existing requirements.
It also enhances our bilateral cooperation across a broad spectrum of sectors, and most importantly, helps to ensure that Israel maintains its qualitative military edge over those that seek to do her harm. With so much instability and turmoil in the Middle East, it is vitally important that Israel stays not just one step ahead of its enemies, but light years ahead -- and this bill is a step in that direction.
Again, I thank my colleagues for their support of this bill and I look forward to its swift passage today.