Dozens of senators from both parties proposed legislation on Monday that would increase the amount of U.S. arms held in Israel that would be available for Israel to use to defend itself from Hamas or other attackers.
Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) proposed the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act, along with 77 other senators. The bill is an updated version of legislation that senators proposed more than a year ago.
Smoke and flames rise from a burning fuel tank of Gaza's power plant after it was hit by Israeli strikes in the Nusseirat Refugee Camp, central Gaza Strip,Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Israel escalated its military campaign against Hamas on Tuesday, striking symbols of the group's control in Gaza and firing tank shells that shut down the strip's only power plant in the heaviest bombardment in the fighting so far. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
According to Boxer's office, the bill would allow Israel to hold up to $1.8 billion worth of U.S. arms within their borders, up from the current $1.6 billion. This stockpile is available for use by U.S. forces if needed from Israel, but can also be used by Israel if they need it.
The bill reaffirms the U.S. commitment to defend Israel and boost bilateral cooperation on defense, including support for the Iron Dome Missile Defense System. That system has helped defend against hundreds of rockets being fired at civilians in Israel by Hamas from Gaza.
Among other things, the bill also requires the U.S. government to take steps toward allowing exports of certain sensitive goods to Israel without a license, and allowing Israeli citizens to travel to the United States without a visa.
"While we work toward a just peace in the Middle East and an end to the tragedy of war, it is critical that we reaffirm our enduring commitment to Israel's security and the historic ties between our two nations," Boxer said. "This legislation sends a clear message that America's bond with Israel remains unbreakable, and I am proud that it has the support of more than three-quarters of the Senate."
"America's long-standing relationship and strong cooperation with Israel dates back to the presidency of fellow Missourian Harry S. Truman, and this bill will reaffirm and broaden the important U.S.-Israel alliance through security, energy, and trade," Sen. Blunt added.
Several Republicans spoke on the Senate floor Tuesday morning about the need to stand with Israel as they fight Hamas. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Israel's military goal is to stop Hamas's rocket attacks, block tunnels that are being used to attack Israel, and de-militarize Gaza.
"That's Israel's objective. This is clearly, clearly justified in the face of more than 2,300 hundred rocket attacks into Israel from Gaza," McConnell said.