During Congress’ annual August recess period, I had the opportunity to travel to Israel with fellow Members of Congress on an educational trip focused on foreign policy and national security issues. As I traveled throughout this small nation, I met with U.S., Israeli and Palestinian officials, military officers and business representatives and gained considerable insight into the many challenges and opportunities facing our country and our allies in the region.
Israel is an ancient nation and the weight of history was impossible to ignore. Like so many visitors, I found deep meaning in the many biblical sites we toured, from Jerusalem and Bethlehem to the Jordan River, and I was also consistently struck by Israel’s precarious security situation. In no place was this more evident than from atop the incredible Golan Heights on Israel’s border with Syria, a region that has seen historic confrontations and faces new conflicts in light of the rise of ISIS.
Israel's security needs are undeniable. Listening to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's presentation to our congressional delegation cemented my support for U.S. assistance to Israel. The country faces the persistent threat from Iran and its proxies in Syria and Lebanon, as well as the ongoing instability and violence stemming from the long-running conflict with the Palestinians. Because of these ongoing and developing threats, the need for robust security support for Israel should continue to be a high priority for our government as we work to counter Iran and stem the threat of terrorism in the region.
On the other hand, after hearing the Palestinian Authority's (PA) presentation to our delegation, I became convinced that U.S. assistance to the West Bank and Gaza is ineffective and should be eliminated. Clearly, U.S. funds are not being used for their intended purpose and I have grave concerns that our financial support may be working against the interests of peace and security.
For these reasons, I decided to co-sponsor a bill to require accountability and transparency from the Palestinian government and ensure that U.S. funds are not used to support acts of violence and terrorism. This bill, the “Taylor Force Act,” is named for U.S. Army veteran Taylor Force, who was killed by a Palestinian terrorist while traveling in Israel. The Taylor Force Act would prohibit any U.S. assistance to the West Bank and Gaza until the PA ceases its program of providing financial support to the families of terrorists, who murder innocent people like Taylor Force. I hope that more Members of Congress will join me in this common sense and necessary effort to reinforce our commitment to promoting peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians.
Returning from my trip, I strongly believe U.S. security assistance to Israel is a valuable investment in the stability of the Middle East and should remain one of our highest priorities. Together with the new Administration, I am confident that we can reaffirm and strengthen this vital relationship with Israel and encourage progress towards greater peace and security both in the region and here in America. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to advance ties with our allies in one small way through my visit. I look forward to continuing the close working relationship between our two governments both now and in the future.
Rep. James Comer is a United States Congressman for the 1st Congressional District, which spans from south central Kentucky to the river counties of far west Kentucky. Contact him with any questions or concerns in his Washington D.C. office at (202) 225-3115, in the Tompkinsville Regional Office at (270) 487-9509 or in the Paducah Regional Office at (270) 408-9509.