WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) made the following remarks yesterday on the House floor in favor of the bipartisan House resolution condemning the recent terrorist attacks against Israel and supporting Israel's right of self-defense. The measure will be voted on today in the House.
"Mr. Speaker, I strongly support this bipartisan resolution condemning the recent terrorist attacks against our nation's staunch democratic ally in the Middle East - Israel - and supporting Israel's inherent right of self-defense. And, I urge members on both sides of the aisle to support this resolution, as well.
"Israel is absolutely justified in undertaking the defense of its territory and its people. As the Israeli columnist Ari Shavit recently wrote, Israel's actions are 'not a war of occupation, but rather a war of defense. Not a settlements war, but rather a Green Line war. A war over the validity of an international border that was drawn, defined and recognized by the United Nations.'
"No one should be mistaken: The actions taken by Israel over the last eight days have been a direct response to the premeditated, unprovoked attacks of Hamas and Hezbollah - terrorist organizations which are underwritten and encouraged by the Syrian and Iranian governments.
"Palestinian militants, including members of Hamas, dug a tunnel 300 yards inside Israeli territory. And when, on June 25, militants emerged from that tunnel, they killed two Israeli soldiers, wounded three and kidnapped one. Then, last Wednesday (July 12), Hezbollah terrorists crossed Israel's internationally recognized northern border, and in a brazen daylight attack killed three Israeli soldiers and kidnapped two. Another five Israeli soldiers were killed by Hezbollah terrorists when they tried to retrieve the bodies of their fallen comrades.
"Mr. Speaker, these premeditated, unprovoked terrorist attacks on Israel are absolutely indefensible. One can only imagine the American response if a terrorist group attacked and killed American citizens from just across our border.
"It also must be noted that Israel has exercised great restraint over the last year, during which Palestinian militants have launched more than 1,000 rockets from Gaza into Israel and Hezbollah has launched four separate attacks into Israel. While I am convinced that Israel is using every possible effort to avoid civilian casualties, it is clear that the terrorists in Hamas and Hezbollah purposely stage their actions from within civilian communities, thereby putting civilians at grave risk.Furthermore, while Israel makes every effort to minimize civilian casualties, it is clear that the terrorists of Hamas and Hezbollah deliberately attempt to maximize such casualties by indiscriminately firing rockets upon Israeli population centers.
"Mr. Speaker, as a first step toward restoring calm, it is absolutely imperative that Israel's soldiers in Gaza and Lebanon be returned unconditionally and unharmed, and that indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli civilians by Hamas and Hezbollah cease immediately.
"It also is long past time for the international community to facilitate the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559, adopted in September 2004, which calls for the Lebanese army to control southern Lebanon's border and for all militias - including Hezbollah - to be disarmed. So long as the international community fails to ensure the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559, I believe Israel - as a sovereign nation with an inherent right of self-defense - has every right to strike armed terrorists which seek her destruction. Disarming and disbanding terrorist organizations is essential to Middle East peace."