WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House floor today in support of H.Res. 34, recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza, reaffirming the United States’ strong support for Israel, and supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Today this House stands united in support of Israel as it faces enemies bent on its destruction. For eight years, Hamas, aided by Iran and others, has sent deadly rockets and mortars into Israel. In 2005, Israel dismantled its settlements and withdrew its military from Gaza—and still the rockets came, more than 6,000 since Israel’s withdrawal. Each one of them—intended to kill the maximum number of civilians, and falling indiscriminately on southern Israel’s cities and towns—was a war crime, by definition. Their harm is undeniable, and I have seen it firsthand; when I travelled to the southern Israeli town of Sderot, I met families whose children had lost the ability to speak, who no longer had control of their bodily functions. That is the profound and ever-present fear that covers much of Israel today.
“But the situation in Gaza is no less tragic. As Secretary Rice said last week, ‘Hamas has held the people of Gaza hostage ever since their illegal coup against…the legitimate President of the Palestinian people.’ To the Hamas terrorists, the ordinary people of Gaza are not fellow citizens, but, all too often, propaganda props. As reporter Jeffrey Goldberg writes: ‘Hamas terrorists unblinkingly and ostentatiously use their own civilians as human shields. I’ve seen this up-close, and it’s repulsive.’ For Hamas, the lives of Palestinians are valued as cheaply as the lives of Israelis.
“Having exhausted diplomatic options and confronted with an enemy sworn to its destruction, Israel has had no choice but to take military action in order to relieve the threat against its people. By offering this resolution, we recognize Israel’s right to act in self-defense—the same right claimed by America, or any other sovereign nation, when faced with a similar threat. We urge both sides to protect the lives of civilians. And we urge the Administration to work towards a durable cease-fire that puts an end to the fighting and to its cause—Hamas’s ability to threaten Israel.
“Only when Israel’s enemies forswear violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist will we be any closer to a just and lasting peace: one in which the Palestinian and Israeli people can live in their own states, side by side.”