On March 12, Howard Brown, director of the RI Coalition for Israel, wrote a letter to the editor of the Providence Journal asking the question “Is R.I.’s Senator Reed still a friend of Israel.” In not looking “under the hood” of S1, the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019,” Mr. Brown has overlooked the underlying reason for Sen. Reed’s objection to the bill.
Sen. Reed’s objection is based upon the wording in the bill, which treats “Israel or Israeli occupied territory” as equivalents – something that flies in the face of United States policy that has always defined Israel as distinct from Gaza and the West Bank. Such equivalence may imply a single state solution in direct contradiction to United States policy of a two state solution, a solution that Sen. Reed has long advocated. He has gone on record as opposing such equivalence language in prior bills, including those in 2015 and 2017, something which the Senate majority leader has ignored. Words Matter.
Moreover, by including BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) language as an addition to this bill, Sen. McConnell (without following the normal process of hearings and committee markups in this bill) has introduced political chicanery in the long-standing bipartisan support for the America-Israel relationship. Sen. Reed has unequivocally supported anti-BDS legislation whenever it is on the table.
Sen. Reed has ardently supported efforts to increase funding for U.S.-Israel cooperative missile defense programs that have invested over $500 million per year. His opposition to the BDS movement and advocacy for a peace plan to deliver security for Israelis and an end to the regional conflict that threatens Israel has been consistent, steadfast and unequivocal.
Both Sen. Reed’s words and actions should assure Mr. Brown that Israel has no greater friend and supporter in congress than Sen. Jack Reed.
David M. Hirsch
Mr. Hirsch is a past President of the Jewish Federation of Rhode Island, now the Jewish Alliance of Greater RI.