Gillibrand: U.S.-Israel Relationship is Strong

The U.S.-Israel relationship remains as stronger as ever despite the recent Iran nuclear agreement, New York’s junior Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand said Monday after returning from a trip to Israel and the Middle East.

“I came away with the understanding that our relationship is as strong as it’s always been, that this is a fundamentally important friendship,” Gillibrand told The Journal News.

Gillibrand headed a Democratic senatorial delegation that included Senators Chris Coons, Cory Booker, Tim Kaine Gary Peters, Tammy Baldwin, Mazie Hirono and Heidi Heitkamp. On Wednesday, they met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his office in Jerusalem.

Based on the photos released by the Prime Minister’s office, Netanyahu and the Democratic Senators, who supported the Iran deal, seemed to have a warm and productive meeting. “A big thank you to United States Senator for New York Kirsten Gillibrand and United States Senator for New Jersey Cory Booker, who met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on their recent trip to Israel. Your support, and that of your colleagues who joined you on your visit to Israel, and, of course, Ambassador Dan Shapiro’s tireless efforts, are deeply appreciated,” Israel’s Consul General in New York, Ido Aharoni wrote in a Facebook Post on Monday.

In the interview with the Journal, Gillibrand said she would vote for new sanctions against Iran for its recent testing of ballistic missiles. “We have [the] full capacity to respond to violations of other agreements regardless of the Iran (nuclear) deal,” she said. “The president has to decide which response he want to make, which one he thinks will have the intended impact, but we should respond. And I will wait to hear from the president on how he would like to respond, but I think responding is very important.”

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Sen. Coons from Deleware Coons said a key part of the trip was to reassure allies, including Israel, that the United States doesn’t intend to withdraw from the Middle East and doesn’t intend to embrace Iran as a new regional ally. “There is a lot of concern; there is a lot of misreading of what the agreement with Iran means,” he said.

Coons also expressed hope that President Barack Obama will pledge to strictly enforce the nuclear deal and confront Iran’s bad behavior during the State of the Union Tuesday night. “I think it’s an important moment for the president to reassure our regional allies that we stand with them and that we intend to continue to contain Iran’s bad behavior and to insist on strict enforcement of this nuclear deal,” he said

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