House to pressure Obama on Israel's security, speed sale of fighter jets

The House next week is expected to pass legislation reaffirming that it is U.S. policy to ensure the security of Israel, and calling on the Obama administration to report on the steps it's taking to speed the sale of F-35 fighter planes to Israel.

While it does not mandate the sale of F-35 fighter planes to Israel, the bill requires a report from the Obama administration 180 days after passage on "actions to improve the process" relating to Israel's purchase of the planes. 

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It would also require reports on how the administration is expanding cooperation on issues such as homeland security and counterterrorism, as well as a report on actions taken to integrate Israel into the defense of the Easter Mediterranean.

The bill is called the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation act, H.R. 4133.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) proposed the bill in March, the same day they addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and ranking member Howard Berman (D-Calif.) are also cosponsors.

But the bill was amended to also include language that would extend a loan guarantee program to Israel through 2015. This language would give Israel to access another $3.8 billion in loan guarantees, the amount left over from the original $9 billion program that was set up in 2003.

Aside from extending the loan guarantee program, much of the bill takes the form of a sense of Congress that the U.S. remains committed to ensuring Israel's security, and take other related steps, such as vetoing one-sided UN resolutions against Israel, and supporting its right to defend itself. It also says Congress believes the U.S. should "provide Israel such support as may be necessary to increase development and production of joint missile defense systems."

More specifically, it says it is U.S. policy to aid in the production of an "Iron Dome" defense system that Israel could use to intercept short-range missiles, and provide other defense items and training. It would also require the administration to release a report 180 days after passage on the status of Israel's military edge in the Middle East.

House Republicans will consider the bill under a suspension of the rules, a process used for non-controversial bills that requires a two-thirds majority vote.