House votes overwhelmingly to support Israel

    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

    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