January 18, 2019

Sanchez is a staunch defender of Israel

For many political candidates, Israel is just another complex topic in their briefing book to be reduced to a reassuring pro-Israel soundbite.  

But for Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who is a candidate for the Senate, the United States-Israel relationship is more than a page in her briefing book: It is a deeply personal and moral commitment to Israel that is rooted in family bonds with Israel and a proven record of steadfast support for Israel’s right to peace and security.

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Sanchez’s work on Israel-U.S. defense issues is often overshadowed by her more high-profile work. Most know that Sanchez is a senior member of the House Armed Services and the Homeland Security committees. Elected to Congress in 1996, she has dedicated her entire congressional career to these issues, which took on a new intensity and urgency after the 9/11 attacks on New York and suburban Washington, D.C. 

Since 9/11, Sanchez has been at the forefront of national security and counterterrorism policy and oversight. She has staked out a uniquely pro-defense, but fiercely independent, position on a wide range of defense issues. She was one of the few who voted against the Iraq War, but she also worked tirelessly to ensure our troops had everything they needed to fight and win. 

Sanchez is also one of two U.S. representatives to the NATO Parliament, where she represents the U.S. on critical issues facing the alliance, including Russian aggression, ending the war in Afghanistan, fighting the threat posed by ISIS, and the dramatic increase in other terrorist threats. Her courage and independence have won her the support of Democrats and Republicans alike.

But Sanchez’s work on U.S.-Israel defense issues is equally impressive. Over the past 20 years in Congress, she has forged close and strong relationships with Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the late President Shimon Peres. She has been a tireless champion of the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow missile programs, which have dramatically enhanced Israel’s defenses against Hamas and Hezbollah attacks. She has ardently supported bilateral Israeli-U.S. defense technology programs and increased funding of economic and defense assistance for Israel. 

Sanchez also shares my support for a two-state solution, under which Israelis and Palestinians can live together in peace. There is much work to be done, of course, but she and I believe we must continue to pursue peace in the Middle East.

Sanchez’s fierce commitment to Israel is based on her belief in our common security interests and because her stepdaughter and two grandchildren live in Tel Aviv and are Israeli citizens. For Sanchez, the defense and security of Israel is personal. When Qassam rockets are fired at Tel Aviv, it’s personal. When Iran test missiles than can reach Israel, it’s personal. When Hamas digs tunnels to infiltrate terrorists, it’s personal. And, when Jewish communities in the U.S. and Europe face discrimination, it is personal. 

Like any other issue, Sanchez’s approach to U.S.-Israeli defense cooperation is thoughtful and independent. She is not one to toe the party line. Yet to those who know her record, occasional disagreements over U.S.-Israel policy have been disagreements over tactics rather than any fundamental divergence of goals.  

For example, Sanchez voted for the Iran deal because she firmly believed that, despite its manifest flaws, it was in the security interests of Israel and the U.S. Like me, Sanchez believes that in peacetime, diplomatic options must be exhausted before resorting to war can be justified. The Iran deal buys time, builds diplomatic strength and develops key targeting intelligence, should the use of military force prove necessary down the road.

Like the American Jewish community itself, Sanchez was torn by that vote and, as do I, believes it was one of the toughest votes of her career. Yet she stands by her decision and welcomes discussion of Iranian compliance and continuing diplomatic engagement to avert war. She promises to be the Senate’s hawk on Iranian compliance, and she is the only candidate who has proposed a special interagency Iran Compliance Commission to hold Iran and the administration accountable on implementation. 

We live in an era of conflict and must send someone steady and experienced to the Senate. Unlike her opponent, Sanchez draws on decades of direct, detailed work on Israeli issues and understands the shared commitment to peace, mutual defense and cooperation that has been the bedrock of our unique alliance. She also understands that American and Israeli societies also are interconnected economically, culturally and technologically. She knows Israeli security is American security. 

California cannot afford to lose Sanchez’s deep experience and international relationships on the most critical issues of U.S.-Israeli defense. That’s why I hope you will join me in voting for Loretta Sanchez, the best candidate for U.S. Senate, and a steadfast friend of Israel.

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) has represented the 47th District in Congress since 2013. Before that, he served in the California Assembly and Senate.