Building on the U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012 (see *S. 2165 of 3/6/12), this bill would reaffirm and strengthen the relationship between Israel and the U.S. in a variety of ways.
Provisions include, inter alia, admitting Israel into the visa waiver program after it satisfies admission requirements (see H.R. 300 of 1/15/13 for more on the program); a non-binding provision urging new efforts on cybersecurity; the transfer of certain obsolete or surplus defense materials to Israel; a 1-year extension on Israeli access to the U.S. war reserves stockpiled in Israel, as well as an expansion of those stockpiles. The bill designates Israel as a ‘major strategic partner’ of the U.S., a title left undefined, and urges the president to provide assistance for the enhancement of U.S.-Israel cooperative missile defense programs. It also includes new authorizations for U.S.-Israel cooperation in a variety of fields, including energy, water, homeland security, and renewable energy. Furthermore, the bill would extend federal grants to cooperative efforts on renewable energy.
Controversy arose over the Senate’s version of this bill because its visa waiver clause stipulated that Israel would be admitted to the visa waiver program only if it fulfilled the program’s requirements and made ‘every reasonable effort, without jeopardizing the security of the State of Israel, to ensure that reciprocal travel privileges are extended to all U.S. citizens.’ Prominent critics of the bill—the Arab American Institute and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee—argued that by allowing for an exception based on security, this bill essentially guaranteed the right of Israeli citizens to enter the U.S. and implicitly endorsed the racial profiling and discrimination to which Arab Americans are subject by Israeli security screenings. The House version only states that it should be U.S. policy to include Israel in the program when it satisfies the admission requirements.
This bill was at the center of efforts by AIPAC lobbyists and it was featured in the ‘legislative agenda’ section of the AIPAC website. J Street also lobbied for this bill, despite its opposition to H.R. 300 of 1/15/13, a bill with nearly identical provisions regarding Israel’s entry into the visa waiver program. At the CUFI annual conference lobbying day, over 4,200 attendees lobbied Capitol Hill in favor of this bill.
In the 1/29/14 Foreign Affairs Cmte. markup session, this bill was amended to include the text of the Israel QME Enhancement Act (H.R. 1992 of 5/15/13) and a provision on defenses against anti-Semitism.
Over a year after it was introduced, this bill passed the House on the last day of the annual AIPAC conference in 3/2014. After key senators compromised on the bill’s visa waiver language, the Senate’s version of the measure gathered more momentum and was eventually signed into law (see S. 462 of 3/5/13 and *S. 2673 of 7/28/14 for more).
355 cosponsors (207R, 148D).
See also: companion measure S. 462 of 3/5/13, S. 266 of 2/7/13, H.R. 300 of 1/15/13, and *S. 2673 of 7/28/14.
Last major action: 3/5/14 Passed in the House by yea/nay vote, 410–1.