Boehner urges US solidarity with Israel

DONNA CASSATA
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker John Boehner said Monday that support for Israel must be the United States’ main focus and not peace mediation in a subtle jab at the Obama administration.

“At times like this, people try to isolate Israel – but we are here to stand with Israel,” Boehner said in remarks at the National Press Club. “Not just as a broker or observer — but as a strong partner and a trusted ally.”

Boehner defined that support: “Well, it doesn’t mean issuing vague, on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand statements. No, it means backing up our words, and showing solidarity with our friend.”

The comments from the Ohio Republican came as Secretary of State John Kerry has tried to negotiate a humanitarian cease-fire between Israel and Hamas after weeks of fighting, with little success.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday warned his country that it faces a prolonged campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Boehner said the U.S. House will always support Israel’s right to defend itself.

“We will not equate professional militaries with terrorist organizations that use human shields and seek to maximize civilian casualties,” Boehner said. “And we insist that the demilitarization of Gaza be not just a House goal but a shared, uncompromising U.S. and international objective.”

Boehner addressed the National Leadership Assembly for Israel, which was organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Boehner expressed support for continued U.S. money for the Iron Dome missile defense system that Israel uses to intercept short-range rockets and mortars fired by Gaza militants.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has asked Congress to provide $225 million for the Iron Dome program in the current budget year, but the money is linked to the divisive border security package and lawmakers may not act before their August recess.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., suggested last week that the Iron Dome money be considered separately. In a rare bit of unanimity, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., signaled that he was open to such a step. Reid also said that the $225 million might not be enough.

“After weeks of fighting, Israel needs these funds to replace the weaponry used to destroy Hamas’ incoming rockets but there is no guarantee Israel won’t need our help again,” Reid said in a speech on the Senate floor.

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