A bill to broadly strengthen the U.S.-Israel alliance was withdrawn from the agenda of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the last moment after an Iran-related amendment was proposed.
Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), chairman of the committee, surprised political observers by pulling back on the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act, which had been scheduled for a committee vote on Tuesday. Menendez is known to be a strong supporter of both Israel and of Iranian sanctions.
Adam Sharon, a spokesman for the Foreign Relations Committee, told Hamodia on Tuesday that the amendment — which calls for Congressional hearings in the event a deal with Iran is reached — submitted “at the eleventh hour” by Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), effectively torpedoed “a very critical public policy bill.”
Menendez reportedly decided to withdraw it because the amendment compromised the bipartisan nature of the bill, which has historically characterized U.S.-Israeli relations. Such an amendment, restricting the Obama administration’s freedom to negotiate with Iran, could put pro-Israel Democrats in an uncomfortable position with the White House.
As a senatorial aide explained: “It is deeply disappointing that a bipartisan bill cosponsored by over 60 senators sending a strong message extending far beyond the United States — Israel security partnership is being politicized when it should be passed. This is the right bill for the right time as the United States and Israel continue to make advances in technology, homeland security, agriculture, and other areas. It is not the appropriate vehicle to legislate on Iran.”
In Corker’s view, however, his amendment is consonant with the Israeli security concerns addressed in the bill.
“Let’s face it, Congress has been totally iced out on this issue since its inception. I cannot imagine an issue that’s more important to Israel than these negotiations with Iran over nuclear weapons,” Corker told the Daily Beast.
“Hopefully many Democrats would agree that we should at least have an opportunity to weigh in on the final agreement… after its negotiated…”
Sharon noted that the bill was the fruit of an intensive bipartisan effort extending over a year in which the senators and their staffs worked together for the benefit of both countries.
However, given the broad support for it, the setback should only be temporary.
“We’ll find another way to pass it,” Sharon said. “The US-Israel Strategic Partnership Act will be revisited.