Washington — The U.S. Congress completed Friday its show of support for Israel’s attack on Gaza with an overwhelming majority of House members approving a non-binding resolution backing Israel. On Thursday the Senate adopted a similar resolution by unanimous consent.
The resolutions not only demonstrated once again the wall-to-wall support Israel enjoys among Capitol Hill lawmakers, but also managed unite a wide spectrum of advocacy groups in praising congressional actions.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobbying powerhouse, issued statements applauding the passage of the resolutions. “While Israel is forced to defend its citizens from those who aim to destroy her, America has, as always, remained a voice of strength and reason,” an Aipac statement read. The congressional resolutions express “vigorous support and unwavering commitment to the welfare, security, and survival of the State of Israel” and demand that Hamas end rocket attacks against Israel.
Dovish Jewish groups, while more cautious in their reaction, also welcomed the congressional outcome, since it included a mention of the need for a cease-fire “as soon as possible” and for the advancement of a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.
A spokesman for Americans for Peace Now, Ori Nir, said the group views the resolution as a success. “It is a success because our messages were well received by the Hill staffers who drafted it. Elements that were very important to us all along are featured front and center in this resolution,” Nir said.
J-Street’s executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami took a slightly more reserved approach, saying his organization has long called for U.S. leadership in order to reach a cease-fire and therefore “supports congressional action that endorses these aims.”
Though the call for an immediate cease-fire, issued by dovish groups in messages to their supporters, was not echoed in full in the final text of the resolutions, the groups did play, according to congressional sources, a role in helping shape the language. The sources said representatives from at least two dovish organizations were presented with drafts of the resolutions in early stages and that the House Committee on Foreign Affairs took into consideration many of the issues raised by these groups. A source involved in the talks described the input of these groups as “significant.”
“Sometimes groups come to us and ask for their dream positions, but even if they don’t get everything, they can be pleased with the outcome,” a senior congressional staffer said.
The call for an immediate cease-fire was at the heart of the debate between the dovish groups and Aipac, which organized a massive drive for congressional statements supporting Israel.
Aipac welcomed the final language, which included a call for cease-fire, but a Friday statement by the group made it clear that the group opposes an unconditional call for cease-fire, such as that adopted by the United Nations Security Council Thursday. “By calling for an immediate cease-fire without expressing these conditions, the Security Council undermines the prospect for a durable and sustainable end to the conflict,” stated an Aipac press release. The lobby also “expressed its disappointment” with the U.S. administration for its decision not to veto the Security Council resolution. Aipac’s criticism of the Bush administration is seen as rare and unusual, since the lobby has consistently praised the administration’s views and actions regarding Israel.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, is 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.