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Copyright © 2019 The American Israel Public Affairs Committee

Washington Brief: A Recap of News from the Hill and Beyond (May, 11 2016 - June 9, 2016)

Congressional Panels Advance Funding for U.S.-Israel Cooperative Defense Programs

On May 26, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $600.7 million for U.S.-Israel missile defense programs as part of the defense appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017.

The bill provides, “$600.7 million, $454 million above the President's request, for Israeli missile defense programs,” according to a summary of the bill released by Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS).

Of that total, $62 million is appropriated for the procurement of the Iron Dome rocket defense system, $270 million for the production of David's Sling and Arrow-3 missile defense programs, and $268.7 million for research and development of U.S.-Israel cooperative missile defense.

These funds will help Israel defend its citizens against rocket and missile threats, while also helping advance the capabilities of America’s armed forces.

The Senate committee’s action followed the House Appropriations Committee passing its version of the defense appropriation bill on May 17. The legislation also provides full funding for U.S.-Israel missile defense programs. In addition, the panel designated $42.7 million for continued U.S.-Israel tunnel detection research and development. The bill now heads to the floor of the House of Representatives.

Senior Administration Official Pledges ‘Largest Military Aid Package in U.S. History’ to Israel

On June 6, U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice pledged to provide Israel “the single largest military assistance package – with any country – in American history.”

During her speech at the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Global Forum in Washington D.C., Rice said that the new 10-year agreement currently under negotiation will “constitute a significant increase in support,” reportedly totaling somewhere between $37.5 billion and $40 billion. The United States has long defined Israel’s survival and security as important to its national interests. And accordingly, it provides Israel—the sole democracy in the Middle East—with annual security assistance to help it defend itself, by itself, against mounting threats across the region. Security assistance is currently provided at levels established by a 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two allies, averaging $3 billion per year. The current MOU expires in 2018.

Bipartisan Letter Urges EU to Sanction Mahan Air

On May 23, 28 congressmen—led by Reps. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) and Brad Sherman (D-CA)—sent a bipartisan letter to the Ambassador of the European Union (EU) to the United States David O’Sullivan urging the EU to designate the Iranian airline Mahan Air as an “entity providing material support to terrorist organizations and lethal aid to Assad’s regime in Syria.”

“Preventing Mahan Air from flying to Europe would send a clear message to Iran that the EU is committed to countering Iran’s support for terrorism and those that have caused such grave suffering in Syria,” wrote the congressmen.

The letter also clarifies that American sanctions applying to Mahan Air for supporting terrorism were not lifted under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

In 2011, the United States Treasury Department sanctioned Mahan Air as an affiliate of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force.

According to a Wall Street Journal report cited by the letter, Mahan Air has flown to destinations in Europe with the same planes that were used hours earlier to deliver arms to the Assad regime in Damascus.

The Syrian civil war has claimed the lives of approximately 400,000 Syrians.

New York Governor Signs Anti-BDS Executive Order

On June 5, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) signed a historic executive order instructing state entities to divest all public funds from companies that support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

“New York stands in solidarity with Israel today and always. This state will not stand for the politics of discrimination in any form, and we will continue to demonstrate our unwavering support for the people of Israel in the fight for freedom, liberty and democracy,” stated Cuomo in a press release.

The “first-in-the-nation action” against BDS will guarantee that no state agency or authority in New York participates in or endorses investment activities that seek to economically harm and delegitimize the Jewish state.

“I’m proud to sign this nation’s leading executive order, which will help protect Israel from the threat of divestment,” said Cuomo. “This order sends the message that this state will do everything in its power to end this hateful, intolerant campaign. New York and Israel share an unbreakable bond and I pray that the Israeli and Palestinian people will find a way to live side by side and find peace, prosperity and security.”

Rep. Zeldin Calls Anti-Israel WHO Resolution ‘Destructive and Irresponsible’

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus, released a statement on June 2 denouncing a recent World Health Organization (WHO) resolution that ‘unfairly’ calls for an investigation into Israel.

“The WHO resolution calling for an investigation into Israel as a violator of ‘mental, physical and environmental health’ rights abuses is destructive and irresponsible,” wrote Zeldin.

Zeldin highlighted how the United Nations and its associated organizations will “lose its credibility” by unjustly singling out Israel and turning a “blind eye” to major problems in the Middle East and other parts of the world.

“The U.N. and its affiliated agencies have a long history of singling out Israel. In fact, Israel was the only country that was singled out; the only resolution that focused on a specific country,” said Zeldin. “The United Nations refuses to appropriately address the oppression and human rights abuses levied in Gaza every day by Hamas. It also fails to recognize Israel’s work in treating injured Syrians who are taken to hospitals and are given first rate medical care at no expense.”

U.S. Army Chooses Israeli Active Protection System for Armored Personnel Carriers

The United States Army has chosen Israel Military Industries (IMI) as the supplier for the new Iron Fist active protection system, designed for armored personnel carriers (APC). According to an official IMI statement, the U.S. Army selected the Israeli system as part of its “Modular Active Protection Systems” and will install it on APC rooftops. “We believe that the American army will begin acquisition and supply within two years,” stated IMI Corporate Vice President of Marketing Avinoam Zafir. “We are convinced there is a very big potential here.”

Zafir told news sources that the low weight, lack of aftershock and “attractive price” factored into the army’s decision. He also credited its “ability to defend against rockets, RPGs, anti-tank missiles from the entire spectrum, and even against recoilless gun munitions.” Iron Fist can both jam missiles with advanced guidance systems and destroy unsophisticated rocket propelled grenades (RPG) by emitting shockwaves.

IMI assured the safety of the people within the APC, stating that the system is effective in “very close-range scenario in both open field and urban environments.” Although the Iron Fist’s computer system decides within a “split second” when to fire an interceptor or jam a threat, the sensors also allow the personnel within the APC to see surrounding threats.

“A boxer can put up both hands to absorb blows – this is passive defense. He can also strike out with a fist and hit before he is punched. This is active defense, and it is what our system offers,” said Zafir.

NASA Intends to Reach Mars by 2030s With Israel’s Help, Space Agency’s Administrator Says

On June 6, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced that Israel will assist the space agency to successfully launch “the first human voyage to the red planet” by the 2030s.

Bolden highlighted that NASA is eager to work with Israel’s “incredibly innovative people on the cutting edge of technology.”

Bolden will travel to Israel to meet with various representatives of the Israel Space Agency to discuss NASA’s journey to Mars. While there, he will also be presented with an honorary doctorate by Bar-Ilan University President Rabbi Professor Daniel Hershkowitz. “Charlie is one of the most sensitive and wonderful people I have ever met. In Yiddish, we’d call him a mensch,” said Hershkowitz.

“Together,” Bolden noted, “we can bring humanity to the face of Mars and reach new heights for the benefit of all humankind … and we will.”

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