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House votes overwhelmingly to support Israel

By
July 20, 2006


The House, displaying a foreign affairs solidarity lacking on issues
like Iraq, voted overwhelmingly Thursday to support Israel in its
confrontation with Hezbollah guerrillas.

The resolution, which was passed on a 410-8 vote, also condemns enemies of the Jewish state.

House Republican leader John Boehner cited Israel’s “unique
relationship” with the United States as a reason for his colleagues to
swiftly go on record supporting Israel in the latest flare-up of
violence in the Mideast.

Little of the political divisiveness in Congress on other national
security issues was evident as lawmakers embraced the Bush
administration’s position.

So strong was the momentum for the resolution that it was
steamrolling efforts by a small group of House members who argued that
Congress’s pro-Israel stance goes too far.

The nonbinding resolution is similar to one the Senate passed
Tuesday. It harshly condemns Israel’s enemies and says Syria and Iran
should be held accountable for providing Hezbollah with money and
missile technology used to attack Israel.

Yet as Republican and Democratic leaders rally behind the measure in
rare bipartisan fashion, a handful of lawmakers have quietly expressed
reservations that the resolution was too much the result of a powerful
lobbying force and attempts to court Jewish voters.

“I’m just sick in the stomach, to put it mildly,” said Rep. Nick J.
Rahall II, D-W.Va., who is of Lebanese
descent.

Rahall joined other Arab-American lawmakers in drafting an
alternative resolution that would have omitted language holding Lebanon
responsible for Hezbollah’s actions and called for restraint from all
sides. Rahall said that proposal was “politely swept under the rug,” a
political reality he and others say reflects the influence Israel has
in Congress.

“There’s a lot (of lawmakers) that don’t feel it’s right … but vote yes, and get it the heck out of here,” Rahall said.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who
co-sponsored the alternative resolution and also is of Lebanese
descent, agreed. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobby
“throws in language that AIPAC wants. That isn’t always the best thing
for this body to endorse,” Issa said.

Nevertheless, Rahall and Issa said they were considering voting in
favor of the resolution. “I want to show support for Israel’s right to
defend itself,” Issa said.

Another lawmaker with Lebanese roots, Rep. Charles Boustany Jr.,
R-La., said he too planned to vote in favor of the resolution despite
holding deep reservations on its language regarding Lebanon. “I think
it’s a good resolution. But I think it’s incomplete,” he said.

The lack of momentum for alternative proposals frustrated pro-Arab groups.

“This is the usual problem with any resolution that talks about
Israel — there are a lot of closet naysayers up there (in Congress),
but they don’t want to be a target of the lobby” of Israel, said Eugene
H. Bird, president of the Council for the National Interest, a group
that harshly condemns Israel’s military campaign.

“These guys aren’t legislating. They’re politicking,” said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute.

An AIPAC spokeswoman said Congress’s overwhelming support for Israel
reflects the support of U.S. voters and not any pressure applied by
lobbyists. “The American people overwhelming support Israel’s war on
terrorism and understand that we must stand by our closest ally in this
time of crisis,” said Jennifer Cannata.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice planned to discuss diplomatic
efforts to end the violence, and the possibility of international
troops to police a peace, over dinner Thursday in New York with United
Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

On Friday, Rice will receive a report from fact-finders Annan sent to the region.

Rice, herself, is expected to go there. “She intends to travel
to the region as early as next week,” State Department spokesman Sean
McCormack said.

Approximately 2,600 U.S. citizens have been evacuated from Lebanon by the United States since Sunday.

© 2006 The Associated Press