newsU.S.-Israel Relations

Netanyahu talks with US senators about confronting Iran, expanding Abraham Accords

The Israeli premier met with U.S. Sens. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), stressing to them that America is the Jewish state’s “greatest friend.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), the ranking member of the Committee on Foreign Relations, in Jerusalem, Israel, Feb. 21, 2023. Credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), the ranking member of the Committee on Foreign Relations, in Jerusalem, Israel, Feb. 21, 2023. Credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met separately on Tuesday with U.S. Sens. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), stressing to them the importance of the bilateral relationship and that America is the Jewish state’s “greatest friend.”

Netanyahu told the lawmakers that despite any disagreements between Jerusalem and Washington, such meetings were an expression of the strength of ongoing bipartisan ties with Israel.

Among the topics discussed were the Trump administration-brokered Abraham Accords and their possible expansion, as well as confronting Iran and its proxies.

Risch, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced earlier this month a bill into that chamber that aims to stop the flow of American taxpayer dollars to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

It is a companion bill to U.S. Rep. Chip Roy’s (R-Texas) The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Accountability and Transparency Act, which was introduced in the House of Representatives.

The bills would require reforms of UNRWA before any U.S. taxpayer dollars are directed to the organization. Specifically, the Biden administration would need to certify that:

• No UNRWA employee is a member of a terrorist organization such as Hamas or Hezbollah or has advocated terrorist activity, or propagated anti-American, anti-Israel, or antisemitic rhetoric.

• No UNRWA infrastructure or resource is being used by terrorist organizations.

• UNRWA is subject to a comprehensive financial audit and has implemented a system of vetting and oversight to prevent any diversion of UNRWA resources to terrorist organizations.

• No UNRWA school or facility uses textbooks or other educational materials to disseminate anti-American, anti-Israel, or antisemitic rhetoric.

• No recipient of UNRWA funds is a member or affiliate of a foreign terrorist organization.

• UNRWA holds no affiliations with financial institutions that the United States deems or believes to be complicit in financing terrorism.

“When UNRWA was created, its specific purpose was to provide relief for refugees of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict. More than 70 years later, the organization has employed individuals affiliated with Hamas, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization, and its schools have been used to promote antisemitism and store Hamas weapons. It is unacceptable that U.S. taxpayer dollars are being used to fund this agency,” said Sen. Risch.

“The American people deserve better, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on holding both the administration and UNRWA accountable until meaningful reforms are made,” he added.

Risch last week had called on U.S. President Joe Biden to veto a prospective U.N. Security Council resolution that demanded an immediate halt to Jewish housing plans in Judea and Samaria, saying the initiative would “not lead to peace and only furthers anti-Israel actions at the U.N.”

The Palestinian Authority eventually shelved the move in return for a series of Israeli concessions.

The UNSC still issued a U.S.-supported presidential statement that said “continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-state solution based on the 1967 lines.”

Risch is also credited with preventing Sarah Margon from being confirmed as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, following Republican pushback against her anti-Israel record at Human Rights Watch (HRW) and George Soros’ Open Society Foundations.

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