The two South Florida representatives in charge of the U.S. House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee—chairwoman U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and ranking Democrat U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla.---scored a win this week as the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee backed their “United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act” without opposition.
On Wednesday, the committee passed the bill which, according to Ros-Lehtinen’s office, “affirms the bipartisan support for the unshakeable U.S. - Israel relationship and for Israel’s right to defend herself” by following the funding levels established in the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the two nations back in 2016. The proposal continues those levels for an additional five years, extending them to FY2019-23 at a cost of $3.3 billion a year.
Ros-Lehtinen weighed in after the committee vote.
“Iran’s brazen antagonism and aggression toward Israel have taken an alarming turn for the worse,” Ros-Lehtinen noted. “This rogue regime is attempting to encircle the democratic Jewish state and provoke a direct confrontation. Iranian groups have joined Hezbollah, the regime’s proxy and U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization, and are amassing on Israel’s borders. This represents a very real and dangerous threat to our close friend and ally, and that is precisely why Ted and I authored the United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act – to ensure that Israel will always have what it needs to secure and defend itself and its citizens from all threats. Our bill provides Israel with at least some peace of mind, knowing that the United States will continue to stand beside the Jewish state and that we will continue to seek ways to strengthen our bilateral relationship. I thank my colleagues for supporting this important bill and it is my hope the Senate can take action on this measure so we can get it to the president’s desk as soon as possible.”
“The US-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act codifies the 2016 US-Israel Memorandum of Understanding that provides historic security assistance to our ally. It also expands cooperation on cyber, space, and joint development assistance projects,” Deutch noted. “In light of Hezbollah gains in Lebanon, escalating Iranian threats in Syria, violent attempts by Hamas to breach Israel’s border from Gaza -- this bill will help ensure Israel has the ability to defend itself against these growing threats.”
In the meantime, with Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirming that Iranian forces in Syria launched rockets at the Golan Heights this week, members of the Florida delegation are calling for the U.S. to hold Iran’s feet to the fire.
“As the Iranian regime once again uses Syrian territory to attack Israel, America stands with Israel, our ally and fellow democracy, and strongly supports the Jewish state’s right to defend her people,” said U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who sits on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “The United States should hold the Iranian regime fully accountable and impose severe consequences if Iran’s forces or proxies harm the citizens of our nation or our allies in the Middle East.”
“Iran’s unprovoked aggression toward the sovereign nation of Israel is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated,” said U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla. “To our friends in Israel, you have our steadfast support, and we are thinking of you and the innocent families in fear during this uncertain time. I urge the Trump administration to reaffirm America’s unwavering commitment to our greatest ally in the region and explore every avenue to hold the Iranian regime accountable for this aggression.”
“This reported Iranian attack on Israel is exactly why Iran cannot be allowed to have a permanent military presence in Syria,” Deutch posted on Twitter on Thursday morning. “Israel has the right to defend itself against this or any attack.”