Menendez, Risch to introduce resolution honoring Israel’s 75th anniversary

Resolution celebrates Israel’s founding and Israeli democracy, expresses support for Israeli-Palestinian peace

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Chairman James Risch (R-ID), left, and ranking member Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) wait for the arrival of Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez to arrive for a meeting with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the Capitol on Thursday, February 14, 2019.

Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Jim Risch (R-ID) are expected to introduce a resolution marking the 75th anniversary of Israel’s founding, Jewish Insider has learned, days after a similar resolution passed the House with broad bipartisan support.

It’s not yet clear when the resolution, a draft of which was obtained by JI on Thursday, might come up for consideration in the Senate, but the sponsorship of the two top lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee indicates that it is likely to receive robust bipartisan support.

The legislation asserts that “the establishment of the State of Israel realized the right of the Jewish people to self-determination and is an outgrowth of the existence of the historic and ancestral kingdom of Israel established in the Land of Israel 3,000 years ago with Jerusalem as its capital.”

It emphasizes Israel’s “pluralistic democratic political system,” noting its system of Basic Laws, “which provide the foundation of Israel’s democratic system,” its “vibrant Arab community… possessing equal rights under law” and Israel’s protections for free speech, press and elections and the rule of law.

“The Senate… commends the people of Israel for their remarkable achievements in building a pluralistic democratic society in the Middle East,” the resolution states, and “reaffirms its continuing support for Israel as a Jewish and democratic state that is committed to — (A) defending the security, freedom and equality of all its inhabitants regardless of religion, race, or sex; and (B) guaranteeing freedom of religion, conscience, language, education, and culture.”

The resolution’s focus on Israeli democracy and equal rights is notable given the warnings from some Democrats that Israel’s judicial reform efforts could undermine Israeli democracy and protections for minority rights in Israel.

Unlike the House’s 75th anniversary resolution, the Senate legislation addresses and offers support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The House bill’s failure to mention Israeli-Palestinian peace, or a two-state solution specifically, prompted several prominent Democrats, including the resolution’s two Democratic co-sponsors, to release a separate statement lamenting the omission.

The resolution notes that the U.S. “has actively supported and played a significant role in the efforts to bring about Israeli-Palestinian peace, in line with the long-standing U.S. commitment to a sustainable, viable, two-state solution negotiated directly between the parties, resulting in an end to the conflict and two states for two peoples based on mutual recognition, dignity and peaceful neighborly relations.”

It “reiterates [the Senate’s] support for a comprehensive lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, in which both enjoy peace, security and prosperity,” and asserts that “security coordination between Israelis and the Palestinian Authority promotes stability and is critical to de-escalating tensions.”

The resolution states the Senate’s support for the Abraham Accords, the Negev Forum and other efforts to normalize and strengthen relations between Israel and Arab states.

The resolution lauds Israel’s contributions and advancements in a range of fields, including technology, agriculture and military and security, and asserts that the U.S.-Israel relationship supports American and regional security and stability as well as promotes “economic and cultural benefits in the region.” 

It includes a reference to the ongoing Memorandum of Understanding providing support for Israeli security and the U.S.’ commitment to preserving Israel’s qualitative military edge.

The legislation also affirms the U.S. commitment to fighting antisemitism and efforts to delegitimize Israel in international fora, and states that rising antisemitism globally makes “self-determination and a safe haven for the Jewish people even more necessary.”

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