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Democrats Speak Out on Situation In Israel

Special Dossier: War on Hezbollah.

Ira Forman
Ira Forman
Executive Director, National Jewish Democratic Council

Congressional leadership loves to talk about how much they support Israel. But as bombs fell throughout the north of Israel and international leaders demeaned themselves by their criticisms of Israel, our leaders have been fiddling away. 
Fiddling away, in fact, in favor of the wedge issues most important to extreme social conservatives -- just today, the House Rules Committee debates "Pledge Protection" while a majority of the House voted to enshrine bigotry against gays into our Constitution.

Neither the Pledge of Allegiance nor marriage are currently threatened. After all, these bills would simply maintain the status quo. Yet each "issue" was a priority for the House, which has still not yet passed a resolution expressing solidarity with Israel.

When the going gets tough, the tough play to their base. Instead of determining how to best support Israel in its time of need, the House of Representatives has been debating artificial issues intended to divide Americans rather than solve real problems. 

We can do better. 

Capt. Patrick Murphy
Capt. Patrick Murphy

Iraq War Veteran, and Democratic Nominee for Pennsylvania's 8th District.

Israel has every right to defend itself against these heinous acts of terrorism by Hezbollah. Hezbollah's disregard for the lives of Israeli civilians, and their refusal to return two kidnapped Israeli soldiers, show Hezbollah is not interested in acting as a fair partner within the region. As an Iraq War veteran, I understand the importance of having a beacon of democracy in the Middle East, and Israel is that shining light. Today, we must stand with Israel, a true friend and ally in the Middle East.

Jeff Albert
Jeff Albert

Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania's 12th State Senate district and former chair of the Eastern Montgomery County Neighborhood Division of the Jewish Community Relations Council.

I will stand with Israel in every way. It deserves our public support and our recognition and assistance in this time of great need. I will work as a State Senator to make sure that Israel is not relegated to resolutions and photo ops.

We need to promote trade with Israel, investment in Israel and the security of Israel. Israel stands as a bulwark for democracy in the Middle East in a very tough and hostile neighborhood. There are foreign powers that see both the United States and Israel as enemies because we embrace values of democracy, pluralism and respect for human rights.

In the last ten years, my opponent has traveled to Israel (a good idea), and to North Korea and to Northern Cyprus (bad ideas), on trips financed in part or whole by others. He has often acted as an amateur secretary of state, undertaking his own version of American foreign policy.

I think a State Senator has a different role. I see my role as being an ambassador here for good will and to promote our friends, working consistently with American foreign policy.

I am proud of the bipartisan American policy respecting Israel's right to defend itself against Iranian and Syrian efforts to destroy, kill and terrorize in violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution. I will support resistance to terrorism, from whatever source, and I will do everything possible to support those who respect our values.

Charles Ellis Schumer
Senator Charles Ellis Schumer (D-NY)
Senators Harry Reid, Richard Durban and Charles Schumer

Letter to Iraq Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki who had been invited to speak before Congress despite having condemned Israel without denouncing Hezbollah's role in perpetuating the current crisis in Leabon and Israel.

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

Recent press accounts indicate that you forcefully denounced Israel's actions in Lebanon, saying, "I condemn these aggressions?[and] call on the world to take quick stands to stop the Israeli aggression." These same reports also indicate that you failed to denounce Hezbollah's role in precipitating the current crisis by undertaking acts of terror against Israeli troops and citizens, as it has against Americans in the past.

Your statements are very troubling. Your failure to condemn Hezbollah's aggression and recognize Israel's right to defend itself raise serious questions about whether Iraq under your leadership can play a constructive role in resolving the current crisis and bringing stability to the Middle East. 

In advance of your scheduled appearance before a Joint Session of Congress on Wednesday, we believe it is essential that you clarify your position with respect to Hezbollah and its provocative incursions into Israel. Specifically, it is imperative that the U.S. Congress and the world know immediately whether you support or condemn Hezbollah's acts of terrorism. 

As you know, the American people have given so much in the name of fighting global terror and helping build a better future for the people of Iraq. In that effort, over 2,500 Americans have lost their lives in Iraq, over 18,000 have been wounded, and over $300 billion in taxpayer funds have been expended. Americans deserve to know whether Iraq is an ally in these fights.


Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid 
Assistant Democratic Leader Richard Durbin 
Senator Charles Schumer

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA 12)
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi  and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer

The House Democratic leadership strongly condemns the seizure of Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah terrorists operating from Lebanon... Countries with influence over Hezbollah, particularly Syria and Iran, must move quickly to bring about the return of the soldiers and the end of rocket attacks on Israeli civilians from Hezbollah positions in Lebanon. The Palestinian Authority, and countries with influence over Hamas, must take similar action in Gaza.

Those who finance, direct, or otherwise support acts like these need to understand that they have produced an extremely dangerous situation and that they are responsible for the consequences. Israel has an inherent right to defend itself, and the United States supports our ally.

Congressman Gary L. Ackerman
Rep. Gary Leonard Ackerman (D-NY 5)
U.S. Representative Gary Ackerman (NY), Ranking Democrat of the House of Representatives International Relations Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia

If the world is serious about peace in the Middle East, then Tehran and Damascus need to be held accountable for feeding, fostering, and occasionally unleashing, these rabid, blood-spattered killers. The money, weapons and political support Hezbollah and Hamas receive from Iran and Syria are not uncontrollable or natural phenomena and the international community must demand that they stop. Cross-border attacks on Israel should result in tough international sanctions on Syria and Iran, and the UN Security Council should immediately pursue this option... 

Israel has an absolute right to defend itself from this aggression and the Israeli Defense Forces has shown it knows how to do this.

Alcee Hastings
Rep. Alcee Lamar Hastings (D-FL 23)
U.S. Representative Alcee Hastings (FL), Co-Chair, House of Representatives Democratic Working Group on Israel

Hezbollah's actions against Israel are unconsciousable. Instead of working towards peace, Hezbollah has chosen to perpetuate the violence. Terrorist attacks such as these are cowardly and resolve nothing... Let us not be misled into believing these attacks arise from a single source. The terrorist organizations, Hezbollah and Hamas, are unquestionably sponsored and guided by the Iranian and Syrian governments... The Syrian and Iranian governments should be condemned along with the terrorist groups they harbor.

Israel must have the right to defend herself. Like the United States and other sovereign nations, Israel is justified in reestablishing its deterrent posture.

Photo of Gene Green
Rep. Gene Green (D-TX 29) 
U.S. Representative Gene Green (TX), Co-Chair, House of Representatives Democratic Working Group on Israel

Attempts by Hezbollah to open a second front after the kidnapping from Gaza are an attack on Israel's sovereignty. Hezbollah's actions require Israel to defend itself, and Israel's actions to take out terrorist camps along its borders to prevent this from happening again are warranted and justified.

Israel has had to defend itself from terrorist organizations that have felt it shouldn't exist throughout its history, and must continue to do so following these killings and kidnappings to protect its people and free the soldiers taken by the terrorist group Hezbollah.

Robert Wexler
Rep. Robert I. Wexler (D-FL 19)
U.S. Representative Robert Wexler (FL), Ranking Democrat of the House of Representatives International Relations Subcommittee on Europe and Emerging Threats

I strongly condemn the horrific attack on Israel's northern border carried-out by Hezbollah terrorists based in Southern Lebanon. The murder and abduction of Israeli soldiers - in conjunction with the infiltration of Israeli military bases and rocket attacks on Northern Israel - are inexcusable acts of aggression that further destabilize the Middle East.

These provocations stand in stark violation of international law, and I strongly support Israel's unequivocal right to self-defense.

Governor Howard Dean, Democratic National Committee Chairman

The international community can no longer allow Hezbollah to terrorize Israelis as well as the people of Lebanon. Any resolution that leaves terrorists in place is unacceptable.

Hezbollah's invasion of Israel for the purpose of murdering and abducting Israeli soldiers across the international border between Lebanon and Israel launched a crisis that inflamed an already dangerous situation that began with the firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza and the kidnapping of another Israeli soldier. 

Gov. Howard Brush Dean III
All countries, including Israel, have the right and responsibility to defend its citizens from terror. All pressure must be brought to bear to ensure the safe return of the soldiers and to end rocket attacks on Israel. 

Lebanon must be freed from outside influence from those who use its territory to bring harm to its people. The international community must do all it can to support Prime Minister Saniora and ensure the long-term success of Lebanon's democracy. At the same time, the United States should take the lead in the international community to support international humanitarian and reconstruction aid for Lebanon as soon as the hostilities are over.

While we condemn Hezbollah and other terrorists for deliberately targeting civilians, we call on all sides to do all they can to protect innocent civilian life. 

At the same time, those in the international community who genuinely desire to see peace in the Middle East must hold Iran and Syria accountable for funding, arming and supporting terrorists.

We also must not lose sight of the terrorism sponsored by Hamas, which like Hezbollah refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist and calls for its destruction.

Hamas knows what it needs to do to move the Palestinian people closer to peace: release the soldier kidnapped from southern Israel, recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce and end violence and terror, and accept previous agreements between the Israelis and Palestinians. 

Democrats will continue to oppose direct funding of the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority while seeking to alleviate suffering through humanitarian aid.

While the announcement of Secretary Rice's trip to the region next week is an important first step, the fact remains that the Bush Administration has failed to substantively engage in the very difficult arena of Middle East peacemaking over the past six years. President Bush must continue to actively step up U.S. engagement in the Middle East. Only with sustained American diplomacy and the resumption of direct negotiations will the people of the Middle East find the peace they long for and deserve. 

Refusing to engage while talking tough and ignoring international problems is not a foreign policy. We must have a foreign policy that is both tough and smart.

We must also ensure that American citizens who are now trying to leave Lebanon are able to do so as quickly and safely as possible at no financial cost to themselves or their families. 

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the innocent victims of the recent violence, and for the safe evacuation of Americans seeking to leave Lebanon.

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