U.S. Republican, Democrat Introduce Bill to Make Israel 'Major Strategic Ally'

Legislation introduced in time for annual AIPAC conference would give Israel one-of-a-kind status; bill also calls for Israel to join visa waiver program for select nationals entering U.S.

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JTA
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A Republican and a Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced legislation that would make Israel a "major strategic ally," a one-of-a-kind designation.

The bill, introduced Monday by U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from Florida, and Ted Deutch, a Democratic from Florida, is timed for the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, and 13,000 activists are expected to lobby for it and for Iran-related bills on Tuesday.

The "major strategic ally" bill codifies a number of existing facets of the relationship, including annual defense assistance and cooperation on missile defense, energy research and cyber security.

It also calls for Israel to join the program that waives pre-arranged visas for select nationals entering the United States.

The Iran-related bills AIPAC activists will champion would tighten sanctions aimed at forcing that country to suspend its suspected nuclear weapons program and would call for the president to support Israel should it feel "compelled" to strike Iran. Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful.

Speaker after speaker at the AIPAC conference called on the Obama administration to make clear that Iran faces a military option if it does not comply with demands to make its nuclear activities more transparent.

"We need to recognize that military action against Iran may become necessary to protect America, Israel and our allies," Rep. Eric Cantor, a Republican from Virginia, the U.S. House of Representatives majority leader, said in his address Monday night to the AIPAC conference.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip, sounded a similar call.

"If there is one lesson we have learned about the Middle East in recent years, it is that nuance is not only not effective but can be dangerous," he said. "We must speak with unambiguous clarity: The United States will not accept a nuclear-weapons-capable Iran."

President Barack Obama meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the UN building, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011.Credit: AP

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