Graham to Israel: Congress Has Your Back

Republican Senator says the recent friction between Jerusalem and Washington "is not the strongest indicator of the relationship".

Ben Ariel,

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham
Reuters

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is assuring Israel: Congress has your back.

"There's been some friction between the administration and the Israeli government but I would say that the friction that has reared its head at times is not the strongest indicator of the relationship," Graham told the Israel Hayom newspaper in an interview published on Friday.

"I think the U.S.-Israel relationship's anchor tenant is the Congress," he added.

"Presidents come and go. [George H.W.] Bush 41's administration had problems with Israel's policies [led by then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir]. In business terms, the anchor tenant is the Congress,” said Graham, who was recently in Israel and met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

"There's wide bipartisan support in a couple of areas: that the peace process should not be turned over to the United Nations. I sent a letter to the administration together with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) urging the administration to veto any UN Security Council resolution that would start getting involved with the peace process. The last thing in the world we should do is to avoid direct negotiations,” he continued.

"Secondly, there's a lot of bipartisan support for the idea that sanctions against Iran brought them to the table, and the Iranians need to understand that the sanctions are not going away, unless we get a deal that we all can live with," stressed Graham.

"When it comes to military assistance, economic assistance, Congress is firmly in Israel's camp. There is absolutely no support in any segment of American political life to restrict aid to Israel. There is absolutely no support for the idea of sanctioning Israel over the settlement issue,” he said, adding, "Sen. Schumer and I are planning to introduce a Hamas sanctions bill that would sanction companies that do business with, or countries that support Hamas, we view it as a terrorist organization. We passed one resolution after another during the recent conflict with Hamas in Gaza supporting Israel's right to defend itself, applauding Israel's efforts to restrict civilian casualties and condemning Hamas efforts to inflict as much violence as possible."

Graham said that the Palestinian Authority’s initiatives in the UN to achieve statehood while bypassing negotiations "are going to be met with a lot of bipartisan resistance.”

“I think that there is a lot of support on both sides of the aisle to make sure that the UN is put on notice that if they give membership status to the Palestinians, any subdivision of the UN that recognizes the Palestinians as a state, their funding would be terminated. We did that with UNESCO," he said.

"I just want the Israeli people to know that Congress does have your back. I am by no means anti-Palestinian. I am pro-Israel and I want to help the Palestinian people with their legitimate ambitions," clarified Graham.

He also reiterated that "there will be a lot of bipartisan opposition to any effort by the Palestinians to use the International Criminal Court in the Hague against the Israel Defense Forces." The interview was published on the day that the PA formally presented a request to the United Nations to join the ICC.

The most urgent problem at this time, Graham told Israel Hayom, is not the Israel-Arab conflict but rather the Iranian nuclear threat. Here too, he stressed, Congress will be on Israel’s side.

"The Iranian nuclear ambitions are the biggest threat to the world in general," he said. "Israel needs to be reassured that Congress will be there in an appropriate way. I can assure you that the Republican control of Senate and the House will be pushing measures to make sure that the Iranian nuclear negotiations are handled properly, that sanctions are re-imposed if the Iranians walk away from the table or if they cheat on any deal."

In an interview last week, also with Israel Hayom, similar pro-Israel comments were made by the new Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

"It is no secret that president Obama isn't popular in Israel, and for good reason," McConnell said, adding, "In my view, he has tilted on numerous occasions in a direction that would lead Israelis to believe that he is not as solemn an ally as past presidents have been.”




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