GOP re­in­forces sup­port for Is­rael with new cau­cus

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

Repub­li­cans for­ti­fied their grow­ing bond with Is­rael by launch­ing Thurs­day the Con­gres­sional Is­rael Vic­tory Cau­cus, a coali­tion aimed at pro­mot­ing wide­spread recog­ni­tion of the Jewish state’s right to ex­ist as a pred­i­cate to peace.

“We founded this cau­cus pri­mar­ily on one sin­gle ir­refutable prin­ci­ple, and that is first and fore­most, Is­rael has a fun­da­men­tal right to ex­ist and de­fend her­self. And that is not ne­go­tiable,” said Rep. Bill John­son, Ohio Republican, who chairs the cau­cus with Rep. Ron DeSan­tis, Florida Republican.

No Demo­cratic law­maker spoke at the press con­fer­ence to un­veil the cau­cus, which comes with Pres­i­dent Trump cham­pi­oning Is­rael af­ter eight years of strained re­la­tions un­der the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Mr. DeSan­tis is the chair­man of the House sub­com­mit­tee on na­tional se­cu­rity, which over­sees U.S. em­bassies. He cited re­ports that Mr. Trump is in dis­cus­sions to visit Is­rael on May 22, and pre­dicted that the pres­i­dent at that time would an­nounce the re­lo­ca­tion of the U.S. Em­bassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. (Pales­tini­ans have claimed Jerusalem as the cap­i­tal of their fu­ture state.)

Mr. DeSan­tis, who toured in March pos­si­ble re­lo­ca­tion sites for the U.S. Em­bassy in Is­rael, noted that such a trip would co­in­cide with the 50th an­niver­sary of Jerusalem Day, which marks the re­uni­fi­ca­tion of the city af­ter the Six-Day War in 1967.

“I think it will send a pow­er­ful sig­nal not only about the U.S.-Is­rael re­la­tion­ship — that we’re back and stronger than ever — but I think that will send a sig­nal to other coun­tries in the rest of the world that Amer­ica is back, we’re go­ing to stand by our al­lies, and that we’re not go­ing to let folks cow us into not do­ing the right thing,” Mr. DeSan­tis said.

Not one day old, the Con­gres­sional Is­rael Vic­tory Cau­cus al­ready has come un­der fire from lib­eral Jewish groups like J Street and Jewish Voice for Peace, which had urged mem­bers of Congress to boy­cott the launch, as well as pro-Mus­lim groups like MPower Change.

J Street’s Alan El­sner dubbed it the “de­feat Pales­tini­ans cau­cus,” ar­gu­ing that the group is “de­voted to push­ing the truly ter­ri­fy­ing myth that Is­rael can end the con­flict by us­ing brute force and re­pres­sion to make Pales­tini­ans ac­cept their eter­nal state­less­ness.”

He cited the in­volve­ment of Daniel Pipes, pres­i­dent of the pro-Is­rael Mid­dle East Fo­rum, whom the left-wing South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter has de­nounced as an “anti-Mus­lim ex­trem­ist.”

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