House easily approves closer strategic ties with Israel

The House voted Wednesday to boost the United States's strategic and military ties with Israel, putting pressure on the Obama administration even as it tries to broker a Middle East peace framework between Israel and Palestinian authorities.

Members passed the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act, H.R. 938, in an overwhelming 410-1 vote. The only "no" vote came from a Republican, Rep. Tom Massie (R-Ky.).

ADVERTISEMENT
The legislation would require the Obama administration to help Israel address security threats, support a missile defense system in Israel and provide other military steps. Prior law only suggests that the administration take these steps, but the bill passed today requires them, and requires a progress report after 180 days.

Aside from broadening cooperation on security in other areas, the bill also requires the administration to work toward making Israel a Visa Waiver Program country. That would allow Israelis to travel to the U.S. without a visa, a move some say should be delayed because Muslim Americans are not being allowed to enter Israel.

Wednesday's debate and vote once again shows the broad, bipartisan support for legislation that seeks to bolster U.S. support for Israel. Leaders of both parties made a point of speaking in favor of the bill, and sending it to the Senate with as much bipartisan momentum as possible.

"This legislation will not only expedite the provision of critical security assistance to Israel, and require more frequent and detailed reporting on Israel's qualitative military edge ... but it will also focus on expanding cooperation in areas of mutual interest," House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said during Tuesday's debate on the measure. "Civil space cooperation, homeland security measures, and finally it will dramatically expand our cooperation with Israel on energy production."

"This legislation before us today is critical because it sends a clear and unmistakable message to America's foes: America stands with Israel," said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the ranking member of Royce's committee.

Obama met Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to work on a framework peace deal, and will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas later this month. 

Later in the day, the House approved an energy bill that was debated Tuesday: the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act, H.R. 2126. This bill calls for greater cooperation between landlords and tenants on energy efficiency, and it passed easily in a 375-36 vote.