By: Jeff Mendelsohn
August 24, 2021, The Times of Israel
The recent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is a humanitarian tragedy for the people of Afghanistan, particularly women and girls. At the same time, it emboldens a hostile Iranian regime hellbent on sowing chaos across the region through proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah while developing nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. The result is a less stable Middle East that poses a greater strategic challenge both to the United States and Israel.
What’s happening in Afghanistan also reminds us of the value of having a strong ally in the Middle East like Israel. The U.S.-Israel relationship has never been a better investment to promote stability and peace in this most unstable region.
The Taliban, along with Hamas, which fired more than 4,000 indiscriminate rockets at Israelis and Palestinians earlier this year, and the Iranian regime, which remains the leading sponsor of terrorism in the world, are all linked together by the same ideology: to radicalize the region in their own image through the use of terrorism and destabilization. In fact, just a few hours after the Taliban invaded Kabul, senior Hamas leaders celebrated the Taliban’s victory on social media, and were soon joined by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and Iranian leaders praising the “defeat” of the United States.
Iran will undoubtedly seek to gain influence in Afghanistan, with which it shares a long border, as part of its decades-long effort to gain power in the region and spread its toxic political ideology. Iran has been waging proxy wars against the United States, Israel and other U.S. allies for decades and remains the leading state sponsor of terrorism and agent of instability in the region. Hezbollah remains an alter ego of Iran, controlling Lebanon and supporting Iranian efforts in Syria. Iran finances Hamas and provides essential materials that allow Hamas to attack Israel. It continues to challenge other American allies in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia. Iran’s unrepentant and increasingly aggressive efforts to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles threatens peace, stability, and national security not only in the Middle East, but the entire world.
Israel is the stabilizing force in the Middle East and the only country able to counterbalance and respond to Iran and its terror proxies. Israel’s ability to counterbalance these forces without putting American troops in danger is of incredible value to the United States and the region. It is one of the reasons Sunni Arab states such as the UAE moved forward with the Abraham Accords, casting aside decades of ostracizing Israel in favor of normalizing relations that is already proving to be of immense security and economic benefit. Without Israel and our strong support of Israel, Iran’s influence in the Middle East would be left unchallenged and unchecked.
The United States and our elected officials in Congress must continue to stand in solidarity with Israel and support critical U.S. security assistance to the Jewish state so that Israel can continue to defend itself, by itself. Doing so not only helps ensure Israel’s survival, and that of the Jewish people, but also provides the United States with greater security without putting additional U.S. troops in harm’s way.
In the face of these real and active threats, and the benefits of our longstanding security alliance, proposals that some in Congress have floated to add unnecessary political conditions to security aid to Israel are all the more dangerous and unwise. Just earlier this year, members of the “blame Israel caucus” such as Senator Bernie Sanders and Rep. Betty McCollum made it known that they support placing additional political restrictions on US security aid to Israel, and some sought to restrict aid to Israel even as it was facing thousands of rockets. At the time, I strongly condemned these dangerous proposals – and recent developments in the Middle East have only further underscored how vital American security assistance is.
That’s why it is critical that we continue to elect more people to Congress who understand the global challenges that we face, who value our democratic alliances, and who recognize that a stronger U.S.-Israel relationship is a force for good in the world. Fortunately, majorities on both sides of the aisle understand what is at stake, but we cannot be complacent. We need more members in Congress who support building upon the Abraham Accords, as new alliances between Israel and the Gulf States will become even more critical for counterbalancing Iran’s growing power in the region. We need more people in Congress who understand that any efforts to politicize our strategic funding alliance with Israel are dangerous and would undermine one of America’s most important strategic alliances. We need more members of Congress who understand the value and mutual benefits of the U.S.-Israel relationship.
Our continued support for a stronger Israel means a safer, more secure, and more prosperous world for all moving forward.