newsU.S.-Israel Relations

Don’t pit Israeli aid against domestic priorities, congressman says

Attendees of a Congressional Israel Allies Caucus reception in Washington support the Jewish state unanimously, but with clear policy differences.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.). Credit: Official Photo/U.S. Congress via Wikimedia Commons.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.). Credit: Official Photo/U.S. Congress via Wikimedia Commons.

As nearly 300,000 people gathered on the National Mall for the early 300,000-strong “March for Israel” rally on Nov. 14, many U.S. House lawmakers in the Capitol say they were moved to tears.

The congressmen viewed 43 minutes of footage arranged by Israel that came largely from captured GoPro cameras that Hamas terrorists wore during their barbaric attacks in Israel on Oct. 7.

The footage that Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) saw was “gruesome,” he told JNS, “and something that the world needs to see.”

Speaking with JNS after a Congressional Israel Allies Caucus reception in the Capitol, Sherman said that he understood why Israel wouldn’t release the footage publicly, out of respect for the families.

“But this is war, and this war is not going as well as people looking at the combat would think,” he said. “Hamas never intended to win this war on the battlefield.”

Instead, the terrorist organization aims “to win this war on the streets of Paris, Riyadh, Washington, D.C., and Tokyo, and around the world,” according to Sherman, who said that Israel is losing that public-relations war.

“That film is just critical. It needs to be released—not all at once, but one day at a time. Most of the faces are blurred out, and I can see the concerns of the families but, my God, people need to see that film,” the congressman said.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) didn’t see the footage but told JNS many of his fellow members of Congress did, including a Vietnam veteran. “He says he almost couldn’t even look anymore,” Smith said of the veteran. “It was so outrageous.”

‘We have to do the job’

The Israel Allies Caucus meeting followed the rally on the National Mall, which organizers said was the largest pro-Israel gathering stateside in history. 

Sherman, Smith, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) were among the caucus members who spoke. Several other House members attended, including Reps. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.), Kathy Manning (D-N.C.) and Maria Salazar (R-Fla.). 

Lamborn, the Colorado Republican, told attendees that he met recently with a representative of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, which produces the Iron Dome air-defense system. He said he was told that the company is nearing completion of an upgraded system, which would use energy or lasers. That appears to be a reference to the reported deployment acceleration of the Iron Beam system.

Speakers focused largely on the 239 hostages held in the Gaza Strip and the rampant rise of antisemitism in the United States.

“Ultimately, we have to do the job—to see the Middle East without Hamas,” said Sherman, a co-chair of the caucus and longtime member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Sherman told JNS that despite loud calls from members of the so-called “Squad” of progressive House Democrats, the party’s mainstream members back Israel and U.S. President Joe Biden’s positions and policies governing the war.

“That policy comes with admonitions to reduce Palestinian casualties. It comes with dedication to a two-state solution. It comes with condemnations of settler violence and illegal settlements,” Sherman told JNS. Individual members of Congress periodically “get a huge amount of publicity, because they say something outrageous, but the Democratic party is behind Joe Biden,” he added.

Sherman warned that Democratic voters are “considerably less pro-Israel than Democrats in Congress, and young Democratic voters are considerably less pro-Israel than that.”

Among other attendees were Jewish Agency chairman Doron Almog, Jewish Agency Board of Governors chair Mark Wilf, Yad Vashem chairman Dani Dayan and Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan.

‘You cannot pit Israel against anything’

On Nov. 14, Senate Democrats voted down a measure to provide around $14 billion in emergency funding to Israel as a result of Republican efforts to tie the funding to a clawback of an equal amount of Internal Revenue Service funding included in last year’s Inflation Reduction Act, which passed the House largely along party lines.

Sherman told JNS that Democrats are determined to keep Israel funding separate from any other political preferences.

“Once you start pitting Israel against domestic priorities, then the next bill is to cut local education in order to fund Israel. The next bill after that is to cut our food stamp program,” he said. “The best way to undermine support for Israel in the United States is to say the only way to help Israel is to cut food for poor Americans, education for young Americans. You cannot pit Israel against anything.”

Smith, the New Jersey Republican, said the position of Democrats on the matter is “a distraction,” and the United States has to say to Israelis and to its soldiers, who are putting their lives on the line, that “We’re with you 1,000%.”

“My feeling is to get it done. Get it done now, whether paid for or not. It doesn’t matter,”  Smith said of the emergency aid. “Now, more than ever, we have to say … [to Israelis], ‘We stand with you.’”

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