Colorado Republican officials addressed the recent American Israel Public Affairs Annual Colorado event on April 6. AIPAC is the only American organization whose principal mission is to lobby the U.S. government about legislation that strengthens the relationship between the U.S. and Israel.
Below is a lightly edited transcript of the Republican members of the congressional delegation.
U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, has been to Israel several times.
U. S. Rep. Doug Lamborn
When it comes to Iran, we need to keep the pressure on. We had strong sanctions that the House and Senate passed in a bipartisan way and that brought it to the negotiating table. I’m concerned that we’re not keeping up the pressure as much as we could be. I know that in the House in a bipartisan way we have wanted to keep sanctions strong, and the Senate I think may be needing a little more push to keep up that same strong sanctioning. When we look at how Iran is still shifting arms to Islam — just the other day some long-range missiles and other ammunitions were intercepted in a ship headed to Islam. When you look at who they want to send to the U.N., I just wonder about them as a negotiating “partner.” We need to keep the pressure on them. They understand that, they understand force and strength.
U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman
When I was elected in 2008 and 2009, one of the first things I did was to take an AIPAC trip to Israel. And it was the second time I went to Israel, the first time I went to Israel was as a member of the United States Marine Corp. And let me tell you, it is a much better deal going on an AIPAC trip than going to Israel as a member of the United States Marine Corp.
I think there are three principal things when we look at our security relationship with Israel. First of all, I think Israel is really the corner stone piece in stability for the Middle East. And we certainly share security interests with them and they are a force multiplier for our interest in the region. I think the first thing we could do better is probably a stronger military and military relationship with Israel. More intelligence sharing with Israel.
Secondly, we need to do more co-production in terms of the development of weapons and equipment. I think the iron dome program is a great example of a very effective show range rocket and anti-missile defense program that both countries will benefit from.
I think thirdly and most importantly, we need to recognize Israel as a full partner and in recognizing Israel as a full partner, we should never ever, ever enter into an agreement that involves the nuclear ambitions of Iran without Israel’s signing on to that agreement. The signatories to that agreement are Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the United States and not Israel, not even our closest Arab allies, Saudi Arabia, was a signatory to that agreement. And that’s wrong. And being full partners means that we recognize that Israel cares as much about peace as anybody else in the region and the notion that we’re going to super impose ourselves and dictate to them what their security concerns is fundamentality wrong.
In 1982 I was in a job in the Marine Corps off the coast of Lebanon. And there is a contingent forced to go in and to evacuate the American embassy and any U.S. nationals and other allies. We didn’t have to do it and I served my two years with the unit and it was time for me to rotate and in my replacement along with all those that hadn’t finished their assignments, ended up going into Beirut Lebanon in 1983. They were killed on October 23, 1983 by an Iranian Islam guerilla when he drove a truck radioed with explosives into what was used as a headquarters building in the airport in Beirut Lebanon. And it was because we thought we just knew better than Israel that we thought we could untangle that mess between the Gurus, the Shiites, the Sunnis and the Christians. And at the end of the day, it was the largest loss to the United States Marine Corp since Iwo Jima. And so from a personal level, I want to see us respect Israel as a full partner.
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, first went to Israel in 1976.
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton
I had an opportunity to sit down with Prime Minister Netanyahu just about six months ago talking about the importance of being able to have water, to be able to grow the crops, to be able to grow the communities. That is the lifeblood of Israel and it is most certainly the lifeblood of the state of Colorado. On that first trip to Israel, I had an opportunity to be able to go out and see what looked much like land that I grew up in outside of Cortez, Colorado even with the Mesa Verde bluffs you put in the Sea of Galilee, very similar to the Golan nights coming through those areas. Once you put water on what looked like very arid land, it indeed flows milk and honey. The lesson that I took from that was that much like the state of Israel, the state of Colorado has an obligation to be able to protect our water, to be able to grow our communities, to make sure that we have that opportunity to literally grow the crops that we’re going to need to survive.
They have challenges from their neighbors, much like we do as well. Kansas kept its eye on Colorado water that we’ve got to be able to protect. They have neighbors as well that can threaten their water sources. So it is conservation but also protecting those water rights. The opportunities for us to be able to exchange in terms of agricultural technology, to be an export for us, to be able to import, even from Israel creates a great opportunity, creates synergy between the state of Colorado and the nation of Israel.
I want to applaud literally all of our colleagues in the Colorado delegation and each one of you for that fundamental feeling and that sense of knowing what’s right in our hearts that the connection between Israel and the United States, It’s been demonstrated by this great turnout here this morning that here in the state of Colorado is something that we can stand beside. I’ll close with a visit I had actually with a lady from a kibbutz not long ago. She said, in Israel we need your friendship. It’s my sense that we also need the friendship of Israel. This is common ground in which we stand and something that I think our Colorado delegation’s fully connected to support.
U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner,
R-Yuma, feels a connection with Israel from having grown up on the Eastern Plains of Colorado.
U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner
I want to take you back to where I grew up in eastern plains in Colorado, growing up in a family of faith where we learned Psalms 122, pray for the peace of Jerusalem. And of course growing up in Sunday school as part of our faith, that was something that we talked about, something that we prayed about… the fact that you can connect that book knowledge with the strength of heart to do what is right in our relationship with the nation of Israel. There are moments in our lives where we all know that thing that we have talked about, read about, studied about, numerous nights but that one moment where you witness it firsthand to be able to say this is truly life changing. I think that’s happened to so many people in this room who have visited Israel for the first time to have that life changing experience to connect the head and the heart, the book with the faith, the values of the verse… And that’s what my visit to Israel meant to me; and I know to so many people who have been there.
As a father of two children, I will never forget the first encounter that we had with a mother who lived in a town right outside of Gaza and she shared with us a piece of her door with shrapnel embedded in that door from a rocket attack. She shared with us the experience of a red code that they would issue and she would have less than a minute or so to get the family to safety or to shelter from a rocket attempt. Then she shared with us a board game that she talked about, that they played with her children, their young children, different age than ours. And this board game was a little bit like Chutes and Ladders except it didn’t have candy in it, it didn’t have fun in it. It was a game that described what happens when you roll the dice and you wake up that day and you go to school. But the next time you roll the dice, it’s a rocket attack, the next time you roll the dice, it’s a visit to the hospital. It was how they would teach their children to become accustomed to rocket attacks from nearby land.
And I can’t imagine what that must be like to teach your children to grow up. And somebody asked, this woman said, ‘why do you still live there?’ And her response, I think, is so telling of what it means to all of us being Israel, which was, ‘where else do I have to go?’
When we think about what it means to know how we back up our belief and our championships of Israel, it’s the votes that we take in a bipartisan way, it’s the letters that we sign, it’s the strong support for legislation in the Senate to make sure that we are not just letting people talk about it but we’re putting strength behind those talks… but we make sure that we also connect those things that we learned as children, so that in our time as public servants with AIPAC, we continue to do what is right, not what the United States believes is right, but what Israel knows is right and how we back them up on their belief with every bit of fierce determination that we have.