US-Israel ties reaffirmed in House vote

The vote followed brief debate in which members of both parties welcomed the chance to send the world the message that the United States stands with Israel.

"This bill reaffirms Israel's right to defend itself against threats and puts the Congress on record about America's long-standing commitment to the U.S.-Israel strategic relationship," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said.

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"This resolution in part is so that there will be clarity, that there will be no confusion," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said. "There needs to be a clear understanding of all those would threaten Israel that the United States stands with her.

"This bill enshrines in law the deeper military and security cooperation that the Obama administration has forged with Israel and made a very high priority," Hoyer added.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Letinen (R-Fla.) called Israel the "closest and most important ally" of the United States, and said the bill is needed to shore up the relationship as Israel continues to face threats from Iran and Syria.

"We are here today to reaffirm our unequivocal support for Israel's right to defend herself," she said. "Beyond affirming Israel's right to defend herself, we aim to expand Israel's ability to protect her citizens against the dangers to which they are subjected to day after day."

"Only massive pressure from the United States and our allies has any chance of persuading Iran to give up its quest for nuclear arms," ranking committee member Howard Berman (D-Calif.) said. "This bill makes clear that the U.S. Congress will continue to help Israel meet the Iranian threat."

While Republicans have questioned President Obama's commitment to Israel's security, Berman dismissed those criticisms by saying Obama has continued to stand with Israel and push back against Iran's nuclear ambitions since he took office.

The bill says it is the policy of the United States to ensure Israel's security, including by providing arms and developing a joint missile defense system, and to take other steps, such as fighting against anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations. It also calls on the United States to help produce an "Iron Dome" defense system that Israel could use to intercept short-range missiles.

The bill also calls for reports on how to speed the sale of F-35 fighter planes to Israel and the state of Israel's military edge. And finally, it would extend a $9 billion loan guarantee program that can help Israel borrow more cheaply. The program was established in 2003, and $3.8 billion of the loan guarantee authority remains.

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