There’s no question that rising terrorist threats around the world have raised the stakes for a strong deal to deter Iran from a nuclear weapon. As one of the chief state sponsors of terrorism in the world, Iran through its affiliate Hamas has repeatedly and viciously attacked Israel, threatening to wipe it off the map altogether.
Israel is the most important strategic ally for the United States in the Middle East. More importantly, Israel shares our values. They have a strong tradition of democracy that has functioned as a beacon of freedom in the Middle East surrounded by many authoritarian and Islamic regimes.
Israel lives under the specter of constant threat of attack. The events in Paris show what Israeli families live with every day. It’s hard for those of us in the United States to comprehend the thought of schoolchildren being forced under their desks because of rocket attacks or suicide bombers blowing up cafes and restaurants right in our backyard. In Israel, that threat is sadly a way of life.
Even in light of this threat, it’s likely that the JCPOA, commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, will be implemented in early 2016 and offer Iran significant relief from current sanctions. This will provide Iran with further resources to fund and arm its proxies to disrupt peace in the Middle East, particularly in Israel. Sanctions were the tool that we used to drag Iran to the negotiating table in the first place, and now we’re getting ready to let them off the hook.
Under the terms of the JCPOA, in five years, Iran can begin to buy and sell conventional weapons on the open market. At that point, not only will Iran be able to generate more revenue through weapons sales to further supply its proxies, but be able to purchase more advanced weaponry to enhance its own military and defense systems. Worse, in eight years under the JCPOA, the ballistic missile ban ends.
A nuclear-capable Iran threatens the very future and existence of Israel. Under the JCPOA, in 15 years, Iran is permitted to significantly increase its uranium enrichment activities. Additionally, I am concerned that in that time, other Arab nations will feel an increasing need to pursue nuclear weapons as a result. This will place Israel under even more regional pressure to defend itself from potential attacks.
That’s why I have already voted against the JCPOA (H.R. 3461), voted to further delay the presidential waiver authority of economic sanctions on Iran (H.R. 3460), and co-sponsored legislation to reassert that Congress has the ultimate authority to approve or disapprove the JCPOA (H. Res. 379). But just opposing or delaying this agreement isn’t enough.
Hamas and other militant groups continue to launch rockets into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip and the Sinai, as does Hezbollah from Lebanon. Consequently, security assistance to Israel remains crucial. This is why I was proud to vote for the FY 16 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (S. 1356), recently signed by the president. The FY 16 NDAA approves funds for Iron Dome, an all-weather advanced air-defense system intended to intercept and destroy short-range rockets and artillery. Additionally, the FY 16 NDAA authorizes the President to help Israel fund the creation and maintenance of an anti-tunneling system to prevent rockets from being smuggled via tunnel networks.
Moreover, in the last two Congress, I have voted to prevent Hezbollah from access to international financial institutions and to thwart Hezbollah’s ability as a transnational criminal organization (H.R. 4411 & H.R. 2297).
Violence in the West Bank, such as “lone wolf” attacks in Jerusalem, also creates a level of tension and fear that average American society has never experienced. In November, I joined my House colleagues by co-sponsoring a resolution condemning the Palestinian Authority attacks on Jewish Israelis (H. Res. 485). Additionally, I supported H. Res. 293, which condemned the attacks. I also signed a letter compelling Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to cease inciting attacks on innocent Israelis.
The United States must never back away from our strong support for Israel. For strategic reasons, for national security reasons, and for moral reasons, we have an imperative to do all we can to support the Jewish state. That’s what I’ve done in Congress, and what I’ll continue to fight for.
Boustany has represented Louisiana’s 3rd Congressional District since 2005. He sits on the Ways and Means Committee.