Watch Joan’s interview regarding Israel:
A vibrant and progressive democracy, Israel is a champion of religious and political freedom. They are a beacon of hope in a turbulent and volatile region. More than just a moral and ideological ally of the United States, Israel is a key economic partner as well with a thriving free enterprise system bolstered by competitive technology.
It was profoundly wrong for my opponent, Jan Schakowsky, to lead a group boycotting Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address before a Joint Session of Congress. The Obama Administration likewise has seemingly gone out of its way to undermine a relationship of trust and respect with Israel.
While the relationship between the U.S. and Israel is very much a two-way street, the cornerstone of the American side is our ongoing commitment to ensuring Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region through a robust regime of military aid. Israel faces a security environment of unprecedented complexity and threat. Whether this Administration or the next one crafts an aid agreement to replace the ten-year plan set to expire in 2018, I will support full funding of that agreement and vote for final passage of the foreign aid bill. I have been concerned by voices in my party calling for foreign policies that withdraw us from our international responsibilities as they relate to Israel. I oppose military adventurism and nation-building, but our commitment to Israel must be unequivocal.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – the Iran nuclear deal — was an unforgivable disaster. From the moment we entered negotiations, it was clear that the United States’ negotiating position was weakened by one-sided, transparent overenthusiasm and that the Obama Administration would accept far less than they had promised the American people. Repeatedly, we were told that any deal would require dismantling of nuclear infrastructure, a cessation of Iranian uranium enrichment (which had been undertaken originally in violation of treaty obligations), full disclosure of Possible Military Dimensions (PMD), abandonment of a ballistic missile program, “anywhere, anytime” inspections of facilities, and a functional mechanism to “snapback” sanctions.
Instead, we have Iranian nuclear infrastructure remaining in place along with a now-recognized, previously unheard of right to enrich. PMD disclosure was not a prerequisite for sanctions relief and was handled as a separate agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran’s ballistic missile program is stronger and more open than ever and the deal inexplicably gives away restrictions on the program after eight years, inspections must be scheduled with the Iranians in advance except in those cases where the Iranians are allowed simply to self-police. The agreement resulted in release of sanctions and frozen Iranian funds that will provide Iran with billions of dollars more to do what they repeatedly do – fund terrorism and weaponry with offensive capability.
Perhaps worst of all, we have negotiated a disastrous end to the Post World War II non-proliferation regime by negotiating any deal, let alone this horribly flawed one. Iran is a signatory of the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Under that treaty, they have obligations. They were repeatedly found in violation of those obligations. I remain mystified as to what there was for us to negotiate about. In the future, no country will need to take its NPT signature seriously – adherence will now be a matter of convenience. The U.N. Security Council has also been fatally undermined as Iran has been rewarded for years of ignoring repeated sanctions resolutions.
For these reasons and others, I would have staunchly opposed the Iran deal had I been in Congress. I do not believe that Iran plans to abide by the deal and I fear that our P5+1 negotiating partners will never agree to snapback of sanctions. Therefore, we should not hesitate to reinstate sanctions, abrogate the deal and act decisively if necessary to ensure that Iran is not allowed to develop a nuclear weapon or even to become a threshold power. That said, I also cannot promise that I would “rip up the deal” in January of 2017. Funds have already been released and sanctions lifted. It may be the wiser course of action to allow events to play themselves out. For members of Congress, the question will be: How easily convinced will we be that the deadline for action has arrived? For me, that horizon will be very close.
Conflict with the Palestinians
Israel is a vibrant, Western, liberal democracy with all the institutions necessary to create and sustain itself as such. The United States should be committed to supporting our sister democracies especially when they find themselves in conflict with non-Western, illiberal, brutal theocrats.
While a two-state solution to the ongoing conflict would be ideal, such a resolution would require interest on the part of both the Israelis and the Palestinians. While there have been repeated demonstrations of willingness to negotiate and make painful concessions from successive Israeli governments (including the current one) I’ve seen no evidence of any reciprocity from the Palestinian side. Rather, the Palestinian appear to have adopted the strategy of having other countries – through pressure and isolation and a growing effort to institute boycotts – do their negotiating for them. They have nothing to gain and much to lose by actively participating in a peace process at this time. American pressure on Israel plays directly into this cynical, dangerous Palestinian strategy. Given these circumstances, I defer to the wishes of Israel and do not believe the United States should attempt to dictate any solution over Israel’s objections. As a member of Congress, I will urge the next Administration to apply pressure on the Palestinians to come to the table and negotiate in good faith without precondition.
The conflict between Israel and her neighbors is not the central issue in the Middle East despite the popularized concept of “linkage” among some European and American officials. If the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were solved tomorrow, we would still have a hegemonic Iran, Syria in chaos, the Islamic State and other Islamist movements, poverty, and widespread hopelessness. Placing the conflict back in proper regional perspective would be a great first step to promoting an atmosphere in which real negotiation might take place.
On this topic, too, I believe the United States should not attempt to dictate its own solution but should, instead, support Israel’s position. Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people and the undivided capital of the Jewish state. David Ben Gurion once said that “Israel without Jerusalem is like a body without a heart.” The city is not currently divided. I see no benefit to re-dividing it. And I see no good reason why our embassy should be located outside of the national capital of any country.
Since Israel took control of Jerusalem in 1967, the Holy City has been open to people of all faiths in a way it was not before and is unimaginable elsewhere in the region. As a member of Congress whose constituents practice a wide variety of religions, I would hope to ensure that those people in my district who choose to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem do so in the safest possible environment. Israel has proven that its stewardship of Jerusalem is the most likely to ensure the safety and freedom of worship for everyone.