Bond meets with local Jewish leaders

BY ROBERT A. COHN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF EMERITUS

Sen. Christopher S. Kit Bond, R-Mo., who recently returned from visiting Israel, reiterated his support for Israel’s right to defend itself during a meeting with about 75 local Jewish community leaders last week.

Leonard Frankel, president of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), which convened the gathering, introduced Bond, who recently announced he would not seek re-election after he completes his third term in the U.S. Senate in 2010.

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Frankel praised Bond for his strong support of Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas rocket attacks. “We thank you…for the unswerving support you have in so many ways shown through the years on behalf of Israel and the cause of peace in the Middle East.”

Bond has been in the Senate since 1987, after serving as Missouri’s auditor and then two terms as governor. He is the ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a member of the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, among others.

In his remarks, Bond stressed the importance of securing a lasting peace through a two-state solution, and also called for increasing humanitarian aid and what he called “smart power” assistance for both the Palestinian and Jewish communities. He urged President Barack Obama to continue America’s strong support for Israel, and said he hoped and believed that the U.S. support for Israel and a two-state solution will continue.

“My recent quick trip to Israel confirmed my belief that the peace and security of [Israel and] the United States are tied together. Both of our nations face threats from extremist Islamic terrorist groups and must work together,” he said. “When Israel decided it was time to do something about the Hamas rocket attacks, it was again in the front line in the war against radical Islamist terrorism. There is no question that Israel is our shining and lonely democratic example in the Middle East.”

Bond said he met with Mossad (Israel’s secret service) and Defense leaders in Israel. “Their chief concern was how will Israel protect itself from the rocket attacks fired by Hamas into Israel,” Bond said. He noted the United States has worked with Israel on the anti-missile defense system, which includes the Arrow-3 and David’s Sling anti-missile systems, which have a medium range, and the Iron Dome, a short-range defense against the Kassam rockets fired by Hamas into Israel.

Bond took note of last year’s celebration of Israel’s 60th anniversary as a modern nation-state. “My first JCRC trip to Israel was 30 years ago, and so I am familiar with almost half of Israel’s history,” he said. “Back in 1979, the Camp David accords led to the Egypt-Israel peace treaty in which Israel gave up the Sinai to Egypt, and there has been 30 years of peace between the two nations. That shows that when Israel can deal with a stakeholder like Egypt, progress towards peace can be achieved.”

“Unfortunately,” Bond continued, “when not all parties are on board, the opposite can happen. Israel offered another olive branch to the Arab world in 2005 when it withdrew from Gaza. Since 2005, the warning sirens have been going off as Hamas has fired about 6,300 rockets into Israel, killing and wounding Israeli citizens.”

“The true commitment of Hamas is violence not peace,” Bond said. “Hamas has been deliberately placing its rocket launchers in civilian areas, not only being willing but even being anxious to do so in order to deter Israeli attacks, and also to turn public opinion against Israel when their own citizens are killed or wounded.”

Bond said that the radical regime in Iran is allied with both Hamas and Hezbollah, and Israel’s actions in Gaza “sent an important message to Tehran, which not only supports Hamas, but also has fomented violence in Iraq, including manufacturing improvised explosive devices which have been so deadly to our U.S. troops.”

Bond stressed the importance of intelligence gathering to prevent terrorism — but he noted that other methods are needed as well. “We cannot afford to drop our guard against the threat of terrorism. But we cannot stop all terrorism with force alone,” he said.

Utilizing “smart power” — a mixture of intelligence, military efforts and humanitarian efforts — is key, Bond said. “In addition to being prepared with good intelligence and military options, we should also expand programs like those of the USAID Agency to provide clean water and new sewer infrastructure in both Palestine and Israel. The programs sponsored by the JCRC to encourage business-to-business contacts between the U.S. and Israel and joint efforts in the area of biotechnology should continue and be expanded,” Bond added.

In the question period that followed his remarks, Bond said that he was hopeful that the new Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the special envoys George Mitchell on the Middle East and Richard Holbrooke on India, Pakistan and Afghanistan will work towards a two-state solution in the Israel-Palestine conflict. “I will miss my former colleague Hillary Clinton in the Senate, where we often worked together, and I have congratulated her and the new foreign policy, defense and intelligence teams, and look forward to working with them in pursuit of peace with security.”