07.19.06

Condemning the Recent Attacks Against the State of Israel

Mr. SCHIFF. Madam Speaker, I rise in strong support of this resolution and of our friend and ally, the State of Israel.

In May of 2000, Israeli forces withdrew from southern Lebanon, ending an 18-year presence that was intended to stop guerilla attacks on civilians living in northern Israel. Last summer Israeli settlers and military personnel left Gaza and part of the West Bank and turned over administration of those areas to the Palestinian Authority.

The withdrawals were conciliatory gestures to Israel's Arab neighbors, and Israel and the international community expected the Lebanese Government and the Palestinian Authority to see them as opportunities to stabilize a region that has seen too much blood and tears over the last 60 years.

Instead, successive Lebanese governments, hobbled by the oppressive presence of Syrian troops and intelligence officers, never made a concerted effort to reassert control in the south, and effectively ceded this area to Hezbollah, a radical Shiite militia trained, supplied, and directed by Syria and Iran.

In Gaza, a corrupt and calcified Palestinian Authority would not make the necessary efforts to dismantle the infrastructure of terror that allowed terrorists to rain down Qassam rockets on Israeli civilians. When Hamas, a radical Islamist party that has never budged from its calls for Israel's destruction, swept into power in parliamentary elections in January of this year, it made no secret of the fact it would embrace a rejectionist policy towards Israel.

Nevertheless, the Government of Israel and a majority of her citizens were determined to continue efforts to withdraw from large parts of the West Bank. It was this plan that was the centerpiece of Ehud Olmert's campaign for Prime Minister and which the new Prime Minister was seeking to implement in the coming months. Instead, in what can only be seen as a coordinated effort, Hamas and Hezbollah crossed Israel's internationally recognized frontiers to murder and kidnap Israeli defense force personnel on Israeli territory.
  
At this stage four things are clear: First, these acts were not undertaken by rogue elements of Hamas and Hezbollah, but were the result of meticulous and lengthy planning.

Second, while the attacks were launched from Gaza and Lebanon, the Governments of Syria and Iran were involved in their planning and execution, especially in the case of the Lebanon attack.

Third, the murder and kidnapping of Israeli military personnel on Israeli territory by armed forces operating from a neighboring state or political entity is the root cause of the present violence.

And, fourth, Israel has the legitimate right to take military action necessary to defend its citizens and its territory from attack.

We mourn the loss of life. Lebanese, Israeli, and Palestinian, they are all the victims of Hezbollah and Hamas. I hope that Secretary Rice and her international counterparts will be able to pressure Iran and Syria to rein in these terrorist organizations and establish a legitimate Lebanese Army force to patrol the border with Israel.