JNS: Israel supporters gather on Capitol Hill to celebrate Jerusalem Day

(June 5, 2024 / JNS) More than 50 U.S. lawmakers, Israeli officials, Oct. 7 survivors, Christian and Jewish faith leaders and others gathered in the Capitol on Tuesday to celebrate Jerusalem Day, which commemorates the reunification of the city during the Six-Day War in June 1967.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who spoke at the event, told JNS that the Trump administration’s decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital in 2018 reflected American commitment to the unification of Jerusalem.

“It was the right thing to do because it provided clarity,” he said. “We need clarity today that America stands with Israel. That we are not ambiguous. That we are not confused as to whom we support, Israel or Hamas.”

“There’s a lot of confusion right now on college campuses, and sadly in the United States Congress, and I think we should be clear and unequivocal,” he added.

Amichai Chikli, the Israeli minister of diaspora affairs and combating Jew-hatred, told JNS that he was attending the event, which the Israel Allies Foundation organized, as part of a wider U.S. tour to shore up support for the Jewish state.

“The main mission we have today is to make sure that we have the support of our friends in America to continue the war against Hamas, against Hezbollah, against Iran,” Chikli said. “We need the support of America.”

“That is the reason why I’m here in the Congress—to make sure that we are empowering the relationship with our partners,” he added.

Reps. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), Chip Roy (R-Texas), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Ronny Jackson (R-Fla.) and Austin Pfluger (R-Texas) were among the bipartisan group of lawmakers who addressed the pro-Israel gathering.

Roy defended his recent vote against the supplemental foreign aid package with billions of dollars for Israel.

“I could not in good conscience vote for the dollars that would go to Israel—17 billion-ish dollars—while also giving $9 billion that I know a large chunk of which would go to Hamas,” he said. “That has to stop.”

“If some of us, who are very pro-Israel, don’t stand up on that mountain and shout, ‘Stop funding both sides of the coin,’ then we’re going to have difficulty stopping it,” he said. “I’m not criticizing some of my colleagues, who are pro-Israel who voted for the funding. It was a tough vote.”

Roy was one of just 21 Republicans who voted against the Israel-related portion of the foreign aid supplemental package. The $26 billion it appropriated included more than $14 billion for Israel and $9 billion in humanitarian aid for global troublespots, including Gaza.

The Texas Republican also defended his vote in May against the bipartisan Antisemitism Awareness Act, which was opposed by only 21 of the 208 Republicans who voted that day.

“Do you think I wanted to vote against a bill called ‘The antisemitism bill?’ No,” Roy said. “But I did not believe that we should go into the business of empowering the federal governmental thought police.”

Sherman, the California Democrat, said he thinks the Israel Defense Forces needs more ground troops in Gaza to defeat Hamas quickly.

“The Chicago police department—Chicago, inside city limits, is about the same population as Gaza—has 11,000 police officers,” Sherman said. “In the press, the range is somewhere between 2,500 and 5,000 IDF soldiers on the ground.”

“While a few of us who are Dodger fans may criticize Chicago, it’s not Gaza,” he said.

Sherman also said that support for Israel shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

“Israel has existed for 76 years, and for the past 76 years, Democrats have been in control about halfway and Republicans are in control about half the time,” Sherman said. “You know what’s going to happen in the next 76 years? Pretty much the same thing.”

In his remarks at the event, Cruz said that waning support for Israel in the Democratic Party is no longer limited to the far-left fringe of the so-called “Squad”—like Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

Declining support for Israel can even be found in the establishment, including U.S. President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the former House leader, according to Cruz.

“The problem is not the Squad,” Cruz said. “The Squad are kooks and antisemites and they hate Israel, but it wasn’t Ilhan Omar who stood on the floor of the Senate and demanded the democratically elected leader of Israel be thrown out of office. It was Chuck Schumer.”

“It wasn’t AOC. It was Nancy Pelosi who said we should cut off all weapons to Israel,” he added. “It wasn’t Rashida Tlaib. It was Joe Biden who orchestrated a resolution at the United Nations effectively condemning Israel.”

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