Israel has many friends in Congress. In fact, any pro-Israel letter or resolution easily gains hundreds of supporters in the House and a large majority in Senate.
But on Wednesday night, supporters of Israel managed to fill only half a room in one of the congressional office buildings at the Allies of Israel Caucus reception on Capitol Hill. In attendance were 10 members of Congress, some of them freshmen who had to step up and introduce themselves to other members and staffers who came to the reception.
The caucus, which was established in 2006 by Florida Republican Rep. Dave Weldon and New York Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel, describes itself as bipartisan. But while members include representatives of both parties, the group has a decidedly hawkish tone. The Israeli sister organization of the caucus, which was established by Christian supporters of Israel, is filled with right-wing members of Knesset.
“Israel is yet to find a partner for peace,” said Rep. Engel at the event. “We cannot want peace more than anyone else.” The new Republican co-chair of the caucus, Trent Franks of Arizona — who is also the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties — stressed that “when America stands with Israel, it blesses America and it blesses Israel.”
The main topic of conversation at the reception was the unfolding situation in Egypt, an issue that has many supporters of Israel concerned over the future of relations with Egypt.
“We look at the events with anxiety,” said Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, who used the opportunity to highlight the importance of U.S. congressional support for Israel in face of the uncertainty in the region. “We need you to send a message to leaders and people of the Middle East,” Oren said, implying also that approving U.S. foreign aid to Israel would be a good way of sending this message to the region.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, was the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.