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Lara Friedman, Americans for Peace Now’s legislative director, cited other examples of lawmakers resisting centrist and right-wing pro-Israel initiatives. They include a bill advocating visa waivers for Israelis that would permit Israel to keep in place policies that discriminate against Arab-American visitors and the confirmation earlier this year of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary over the objections of several pro-Israel groups.
“It proved that no outside group can push through its agenda,” Friedman said.
Officials from centrist pro-Israel groups said there is still robust bipartisan support for the U.S.-Israel relationship. They noted the overwhelming passage in the House this month of bills that would advance Israel’s qualitative military edge and energy cooperation with the United States, as well as agreement in the House and Senate to triple the administration’s request for funding of missile defense cooperation to nearly $300 million. A Republican congressional staffer predicted that the Senate would consider the sanctions in 2014 even though Senate Democrats have resisted because of the renewed talks with Iran.
“As you get closer to November 2014 [and midterm elections], it’s going to be harder to keep folks from getting tough,” said the staffer, who declined to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to talk to the media.
On the domestic front, the two-year budget agreement that passed the House last week and is likely to pass this week in the Senate is being seen as a positive step after months of bickering between the two parties, including a 16-day government shutdown. But any optimism is restrained.
“Looking back at the year, to sum it up, it’s been a really bad year that just avoided getting a lot worse,” said Rachel Goldberg, director of aging policy at B’nai B’rith International, which operates 42 homes for the elderly across the United States.