On the eve of the 75th anniversary of the state of Israel, the dramatic escalation of attacks on that country underscores the importance of America’s remaining steadfast by the side of our ally. Actions do speak louder than words, but both matter.
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Though the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has a long and complicated history, the recent flare-up stems most immediately from the launch of more than 100 rockets in early May by Gaza-based terrorists targeting Israel. Those militants claimed to be responding to the death of one of their own, Khader Adnan, following his 87-day hunger strike while in Israeli custody.
Adnan’s group is not actually Hamas, which controls Gaza and is a known terrorist actor in its own right. Rather his affiliation — the primary group stirring hostilities in this case — is Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a terrorist ring with particularly close ties to Iran.
One former Israeli Defense Force (IDF) spokesperson recently told CBN News: “Iran is the main director of the initiatives of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. … It’s the funder. It’s also the training element.”
The Israeli military responded swiftly to the rocket attacks with airstrikes against militant targets. Then the IDF prepared and executed additional strikes that killed three senior PIJ leaders, including the commander responsible for the rocket attacks.
“Israel’s policy is clear: Those who seek to harm Israel will be harmed,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the day of those strikes. “Those who kill our citizens will pay a heavy price. And those who fire on our cities and civilians will be held responsible for their actions. It may take time, but Israel will ultimately reach these terrorists. No one should doubt Israel’s resolve to defend its citizens.”
Netanyahu hinted that additional clarity about that resolve would come in the days following.
The PIJ response to the loss of its commanders was to unleash a barrage of more than 500 rockets out of Gaza and into Israel. The contrast in strategies illustrates yet another point Netanyahu made this week: “The difference between Israel and our enemies is that we make every effort to keep the enemies’ civilian population out of harm’s way, while our enemies make every effort to deliberately target our civilians.”
Israeli officials estimated that perhaps up to one-third of the most recent rockets actually fell on Palestinian-controlled territory, while many others were intercepted by the short-range Iron Dome defensive rockets. The medium-range David’s Sling missile defense system was also utilized for the first time against a missile aimed at Tel Aviv. Significantly, both of those systems receive major financial support from the U.S., thanks to ongoing bipartisan resolve in the U.S. Congress.
And the need to stand up for the Israel vocally was not lost on numerous U.S. legislators on both sides of the political aisle. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy tweeted: “Let me be very clear: America is grateful for our friendship with Israel. We are a better nation because of it. And we must never shy away from defending it.”
McCarthy also took action during these days of the Gaza assault to defend Israel in a symbolic yet very important way. On the day of the massive rocket assault, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., was organizing an opportunity for anti-Israel groups to hold a “Nakba”commemoration inside the U.S. Capitol. The idea was to lament the “catastrophe” of Israel’s birth as an independent state 75 years ago. Catching wind of the event, McCarthy used his powers to reclaim the room Tlaib planned to use and instead set up a briefing to celebrate the U.S.-Israel relationship.
After a scramble, Tlaib nevertheless did manage to find a venue for her anti-Israel forum. She secured a committee room on the Senate side of Capitol Hill, thanks to swift help from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. But this was not without a rebuke from the top Republican on the committee, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., who said: “The Capitol grounds should not be used as a pedestal to legitimize anti-semitic bigotry.”
Again, the terrorism of violent extremists against Israel and the dangerous messaging attacks upon its legitimacy as a state are stark reminders that our ally needs for us to remain unwavering in our solidarity. May our leaders stand steadfast and united by Israel’s side.
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Aaron Mercer is a contributing writer with two decades of experience in the Washington, D.C., public-policy arena. Photo Credit: Jonny Gios on Unsplash.