WASHINGTON - In a stunning act of political hypocrisy, 164 House Republicans - at the urging of their party leadership - voted against the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill early this morning, traditionally a top priority of the pro-Israel community. The legislation, which passed by a margin of 241-178, contained $2.4 billion in aid to Israel. Today, the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) strongly condemned the House Republican leadership for urging Republicans to oppose the bill.
In a letter sent by the Republican leadership to their Members, Republicans were told: "Please advise your boss that Leadership will be voting NO on final passage of the Democrats' State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, and strongly encourage Republican Members to do the same." [emphasis added]
"After all their rhetoric about supporting Israel, Republicans yesterday placed politics above the U.S.-Israel relationship. By claiming to support Israel from one corner of their mouths, while telling Members to vote against billions in aid from the other corner, the Republican leaders have engaged in a sad, cynical act of political hypocrisy," said NJDC Executive Director Ira N. Forman. "For years, support for the foreign aid bill has been a top priority of the pro-Israel community. This vote was a real blow to the bipartisan consensus that we've worked so hard to develop on Israel."
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) writes that "by approving the foreign aid bill annually, and earmarking the critical funds for Israel, Congress reaffirms the strength and vitality of the U.S.-Israel relationship, boosts the American economy and helps to fulfill our nation's foreign policy objectives in the Middle East." [AIPAC Issue Brief, "Aid to Israel," 1/19/07]
The GOP leadership's actions could signal a disturbing return to the days when Congressional Republicans demagogued the foreign aid issue with isolationist rhetoric that sometimes bordered on xenophobia. After September 11, isolationism gave way to internationalism and foreign aid began to enjoy bipartisan support. This latest move by the House GOP calls into question the new ideological direction the party has undertaken. While the GOP leaders continue to "claim" support for aid to Israel, their opposition to the entire foreign aid bill has clearly put Israel's funds in jeopardy.
"I sincerely hope the GOP leadership does not intend to return to the ‘world-is-flat' days when Republicans routinely demogogued the foreign aid issue to score political points," continued Forman. "Make no mistake, if our entire foreign aid package becomes victim of partisan football, it will put funds for Israel in jeopardy. The State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill contains more funding for Israel than any other country. Aid to Israel accounts for nearly 50% of all military aid in the bill. [CQ House Action Report, 6/19/07]
The bill also contained strong language condemning the Arab League for its boycott of Israel, calling it an "impediment to peace in the region and to United States investment and trade in the Middle East and North Africa," demanding that "all Arab League states should normalize relations with their neighbor Israel" and calling on the Bush Administration to "report to Congress annually on specific steps being taken by the United States to encourage Arab League states to normalize their relations with Israel to bring about the termination of the Arab League boycott of Israel ..." [HR 2764]
The vote was roll call #542 and is available here.
"Aid to Israel has long been a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy. It is a cost-effective way of serving America's national security interests in the Middle East, bolstering a reliable U.S. ally in a volatile and critically important region," writes AIPAC. [AIPAC Memo, 3/11/07]