BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of S. 2165, the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, and I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
I want to thank, first of all, my friends, Majority Leader Cantor and Minority Whip Hoyer, for bringing this important bill back to the floor of the House so that we can accept the Senate's constructive additions and send it to the President's desk.
I'd also like to thank, as did my chairman, Senators BOXER and ISAKSON, and Senator Collins, for their leadership on this resolution in the Senate.
And finally, I want to thank my friend and chairman, the gentlelady from Florida, for her continued leadership on the issue of the U.S.-Israel relationship.
Members should recall that in May we passed the House version of this bill, H.R. 4133, by a near-unanimous vote. We will be taking another vote today because the Senate has added an important extension of military stockpile reserve authorities. I strongly support this addition and thank the Senate for its contribution.
Mr. Speaker, since its founding, Israel has faced innumerable challenges to its survival, but the serious threats it faces today are unprecedented. Deadly cross-border attacks from the Sinai Peninsula have taken both Israeli Arab and Israeli Jewish lives.
Terrorism still penetrates Israel from Gaza in the form of rocket and mortar attacks. But unlike in years past, the Iron Dome Anti-Missile System, funded in part by the United States, has changed the rules of the game. In fact, Iron Dome has been successful in intercepting a remarkable 90 percent of incoming rockets aimed at once defenseless population centers.
Currently, there are only a handful of Iron Dome batteries operational in Israel. More are needed in order to protect all of Israel's 8 million citizens.
I'm pleased to say that S. 2165 retains language from the Iron Dome Support Act, bipartisan legislation I introduced which now has nearly 110 cosponsors expressing support for providing Israel assistance to produce additional Iron Dome batteries.
This bill also pledges to assist Israel with its ongoing effort to forge a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that results in two states living side by side in peace and in security. Despite all the obstacles to achieving this goal, we cannot give up trying, as peace is profoundly in Israel's strategic interest.
I applaud Prime Minister Netanyahu's willingness to negotiate anywhere, anytime. The Palestinians should take him up on that offer, instead of pursuing a campaign to delegitimize Israel at the U.N. and elsewhere.
Mr. Speaker, perhaps the greatest threat to both American and Israeli security today is that posed by Iran's nuclear weapons program. I hope this problem can be solved diplomatically, but as we all know, only massive pressure from the United States and our allies has any chance of persuading Iran to give up its quest for nuclear arms.
In fact, we are currently negotiating a sanctions bill with the Senate, the Iran Threat Reduction Act, which Chairman Ros-Lehtinen and I introduced and which the House passed late last year. That bill will dramatically increase the economic pressure on Iran. Meanwhile, the bill before us today makes clear that the U.S. Congress will continue to help Israel meet the Iranian threat.
Gaza-based terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Iranian nuclear program are not the only threats faced by Israel. Recent events in Egypt and Syria, along with the presence of Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, require Israeli vigilance against danger from all directions.
To that end, this bill, once again, reaffirms our determination to support Israel's qualitative military edge against any possible combination of regional threats. In reinforcing that commitment to Israel's security, this bill extends for 4 years a loan guarantee program for Israel that was initiated in 2003. The extension is based on legislation that Chairman Ros-Lehtinen and I introduced in March.
Mr. Speaker, our relationship with our ally Israel is one of the most important and closest that we have with any nation in the world. The United States and Israel face many of the same threats, and we share the same values. Israel's defense minister, Ehud Barak, recently said that he can hardly remember a better period of U.S. ``support and cooperation'' and common U.S.-Israel strategic understanding than the current one.
The passage of this bill will help ensure that this cooperation continues into the future. I encourage all of my colleagues to support this legislation.
I reserve the balance of my time.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT