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Congressman Gottheimer Prioritizes US Security Interests in Israel

On February 10, the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey hosted a virtual conversation with Democrat U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5).

“As Jews, we draw wisdom from many places: the Torah, the Talmud and Jewish grandmothers and grandfathers,” Gottheimer began. “My grandfather used to say, ‘Don’t just complain without a solution.’ That’s my approach to Congress. Don’t just complain; bring people together and find an answer.

“To break through the ‘mishegas,’ the gridlock that paralyzes Washington, you build relationships and trust,” Gottheimer continued. “The U.S.-Israel relationship … [has] been at the top of my agenda since I was elected. When I talk about this, it’s not about what’s best for Israel per se, because I don’t represent Israel. I represent the USA. I believe what’s most important to our national security is to have a very strong relationship with Israel. It’s essential to our protection; it’s essential to fight against terror.

“The conversation tonight is not about the democracy or human rights that Israel advocates or standing up to either anti-Semitism or violent extremism. I want to talk about making sure that our key ally is protected.” Gottheimer said that Israel having a strong Iron Dome missile defense system is a top priority.

“During the recent conflict, 4,000-plus rockets rained down over Israel in an 11-day period, a huge escalation of the number of rockets by Hamas and Hezbollah. There were 10,000 over a decade, and, in just 11 days, there were 4,000-plus. In the previous 10 years, Israel needed 2,400 interceptors for 10,000 rockets. In May, the same number of interceptors needed in 10 years was used in under two weeks.

“Without Iron Dome, 90% of the projectiles shot down could have landed in populated areas. That’s all we needed to know to realize replenishment of Iron Dome interceptors was urgent. Iron Dome saves Israeli and Palestinian lives. The conflict would have been far more deadly without the system.” Gottheimer added that the United States also utilizes this technology.

Another item Gottheimer discussed was the Memorandum of Understanding between Israel and the U.S. signed in 2016; Israel could possibly receive additional allocations under ‘exceptional’ circumstances. Under the MOU, we have an agreed amount. If there is a conflict, an exception kicks in and our two countries talk to each other about what’s needed. Congress obviously has to approve and appropriate accordingly.

“I led 56 colleagues last spring, Democrats and Republicans from across the country, to replenish Israel’s stock of interceptors,” Gottheimer said. “We signed a letter calling for replenishment immediately. The administration replied favorably to our bipartisan requests. On September 23rd, I was proud to vote along with 419 colleagues on a billion-dollar emergency supplemental appropriation for Iron Dome.”

Congress hasn’t started the process to provide supplemental funding because of a Senate hold by Senator Rand Paul. Gottheimer called it “deeply disappointing to see usage of Israel as a political football.” In November, he unsuccessfully led 87 bipartisan members, asking the president to include Iron Dome funding for short-term appropriations in continuing resolutions—the same money as the previous year, with an exception for Iron Dome.

“I said I would not vote for another short-term budget for any appropriations request unless supplemental funding is included in either full-year or short-term appropriations. I was the only Democrat to vote no, on the principle that Iron Dome wasn’t included. The fact is, we can’t run our government with the short-term continuing resolutions. We need to actually work together until the very last minute to work these things through.

“Stop-gap measures aren’t bipartisan,” Gottheimer explained. “In the long term, they actually hurt national security. Projects focused on security get held up. They can’t start building what we need. It hurts national defense: our ability to protect allies like Israel, the ability of states to plan critical infrastructure projects and more. The American people and the families I represent in New Jersey expect us to find practical bipartisan solutions. That’s why I voted the way I did.

“They are reporting a bipartisan deal for long-term government funding in the last day,” Gottheimer concluded. “I’ll continue to push Congress to keep our commitments. What I know is that if our ally Israel is attacked, there’s great support from both parties to get behind it. It’s high time to make sure that Israel has what it needs.”

By Judy Berger

 

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