TEL AVIV – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led a bipartisan congressional delegation with Senators Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
In Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the senators met with national security leaders, including the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and the King of Saudi Arabia, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. In both countries, Senator Cardin discussed the importance of U.S. security relationships with the Arab Gulf, including joint efforts to counter ISIL and deter Iran from destabilizing the region, particularly after its recent ballistic missile tests in defiance of U.N. Security Council Resolutions.
“In the Gulf region, strong bilateral relationships enhance our ability to confront the shared threat of extremism represented by ISIL and to fully monitor Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA, so that Iran never becomes a nuclear weapons state,” said Senator Cardin. “We share a narrative, which is that we seek peace and opportunity to improve the lives of our citizens and to keep the region free from Iranian meddling.”
In Israel, the senators met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat. In Israel, Senator Cardin expressed his ardent support for Israel’s security and a two-state solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. The delegation visited an Iron Dome anti-rocket battery, which has a successful missile interception rate close to 90 percent. The senators also visited the USAID-supported Hand in Hand school in Jerusalem that co-educates Israeli and Palestinian children.
“In Israel, I remain hopeful that the stalemate will end and that there can be movement toward a two state solution,” Cardin noted. “Inflammatory and unilateral actions can only prolong the current impasse. There can also be no rationale nor excuse for the violent attacks, which since September 2015 have claimed 28 Israeli lives, as well as two American lives.”
“Our discussions with heads of state and national security leaders in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Israel highlighted the importance of international cooperation to defeat ISIL and addressing the growing instability in the Middle East, which in part can be attributed to an increasingly belligerent Iran,” said Senator Gardner. “Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and several leaders in the region expressed many concerns that I share regarding Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement. The United States must do everything in its power to protect our friend and ally, Israel, and to assure all our allies that we are committed to ending terror and radicalism with strong U.S. leadership.”
“As the tragic attacks in Brussels demonstrated this week, it is more important than ever for nations to work together to counter the threat of ISIS,” said Senator Merkley. “We had a productive trip discussing security and cooperation with several of our partners in this crucial region, and I especially appreciated the chance to meet with our strong ally Israel.”
“As we discussed with leaders of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority, we remain committed to strengthening our security cooperation with our Gulf partners,” said Senator Markey. “In light of Iran’s condemnable missile tests and its ongoing sponsorship of terrorism, as well as the murderous ideology represented by ISIS, we must work with our regional partners and the entire international community to bolster regional security and that of our steadfast ally Israel. Iran must never acquire a nuclear weapon and we must implement the Iran agreement fully and unequivocally. While the challenges are daunting, we share the resolve and commitment needed to ensure peace and prosperity for the people of the Middle East.”