WASHINGTON – Sen. Robert Menendez harshly criticized Republican efforts to fast track legislation that would have prohibited U.S. aid to Gaza, decrying those who use the U.S.-Israel relationship for "partisan political purposes."
Menendez on Wednesday took to the Senate floor to object to Sen. Rick Scott's unanimous consent request to skip regular Senate Foreign Relations Committee consideration and debate.
"It does damage to the United States. It does damage to the State of Israel,” Senator Menendez said. “Let’s remember why we invest in foreign aid programs in the first place. We do so in pursuit of our common humanity, our values, and our own security interests. So let’s recognize the political games being played on the floor today for what they are, and reject them.”
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Menendez has long been among the most pro-Israel senators in the history of Congress, and has a track record of prioritizing serious, bipartisan legislation. He noted that the Senate has a "long history of carefully crafting foreign aid programs with robust oversight," rejecting Scott's proposal as "not a serious attempt at legislating. It is a partisan talking point."
He added that Scott would have gone through regular order had he actually been interested in crafting policy, noting that laws and regulations regarding life-saving humanitarian aid already exist.
"As written, this bill – by way of example of why we have bills go through the Committee so they can be worked on – seems intended to ensure that nobody in Gaza could ever receive any of this support," Menendez said.
"The language is written so broadly, that, for example, before delivering clean water or water infrastructure, the president would effectively have to certify that anyone related to Hamas would never drink that water or drink from a water fountain that carried that water. This is simply absurd," Menendez continued.
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"Let’s remember why we invest in foreign aid programs in the first place. We do so in pursuit of our common humanity, our values, and our own security interests."
Joel Braunold, managing director of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, echoed Menendez's points, stressing the care that has been put into such aid distribution.
"Vetting is a serious business. The U.S. has many different laws in order to ensure that foreign assistance does not fall into the hands of proscribed terrorist organizations," he told Haaretz. "If Congress wishes to further restrict aid – it is essential that any attempt goes through a full committee process so the actual impacts can be understood on U.S. interests. As Sen. Menedez stated this latest proposal would have banned drinking water from being supported by the United States."
Scott's unanimous consent request is perhaps the most noteworthy example of Republican proposed legislation aimed at politicizing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Other examples include Rep. Tony Gonzales' motion to recommit aimed at providing an additional $73 million to the Iron Dome missile defense system to an emergency supplemental appropriation to respond to the January 6 attack on the Capitol and Sen. Ted Cruz's amendment on the Endless Frontier Act — framed as a way to boost American science research as a way to compete with China — which puts the U.S. in position to force other states to treat settlements as part of Israel.