The bodies and buses blown apart in Israel as the country prepared to observe Purim are stark evidence of the overriding importance of stamping out terrorism.
We cannot simply mourn. We must act. With the world's attention focused on these horrific acts of violence and subsequent reactions in Washington, D.C., and Jerusalem, the pro-Israel community's mobilization in responding to the unfolding events can make a real difference.
Acting now on a package of legislative initiatives which, taken together, represent a powerful and decisive response, will send the unambiguous message that Amer-ica stands against terrorism and with Israel at this time of crisis.
How can we work with Congress to fight terrorism?
*First, we must cut off the financial sources that support international terrorism. Many experts believe millions of dollars each year flow from American bank accounts to Hamas. Unfortunate-ly, after being stalled in the House for several months, the counter-terrorism bill was considered by the full House this week and it was weakened considerably. This bill, which has passed the Senate, would have severely curtailed the ability of terrorist organizations such as Islamic Jihad and Hamas to raise money in the United States.
In addition, it provided new federal jurisdiction to prosecute perpetrators of terrorism carried out in the United States as well as those conspiring in this country to commit terrorism abroad. Those provisions were removed. The goal of strengthening our nation's ability to go after international terrorism is not incompatible with assuring civil liberties. We intend to work to restore those key provisions.
Mideast-originated terrorism has reached U.S. shores. This bill, if key provisions are restored, can thwart further outrages on our soil. The community must weigh in with their elected officials on this important piece of law.
*Second, Iran is still the major force behind international terrorism. It is responsible for taking hundreds of innocent lives around the world — from Jerusalem to Buenos Aires. Iran is the world's largest provider of money, weapons and training for terror, and it is now seeking nuclear weapons that will pose an even greater threat to Israel's very existence and to the U.S. itself.
The Iran Foreign Oil Sanctions Act strikes at Iran's ability to support international terrorist groups and impedes fundraising for its nuclear weapons program. The bill passed the Senate in December and will be marked up in the House International Relations Committee this month. Then the bill will be referred to the Ways and Means Committee, which maintains jurisdiction over trade issues.
Even though the bill has not been enacted into law, pending U.S. sanctions are already wielding considerable impact: The president's executive order caused Iran's currency to plunge in value; the trade embargo has cost Iran hundreds of millions of dollars by forcing Iran to discount its crude oil prices in an effort to compensate for lost U.S. sales; and at least four major foreign investment projects in Iran's energy sector, valued at billions of dollars, have been canceled. Meanwhile, other companies were deterred from large-scale investments in Iran.
In addition, American diplomatic maneuvers have prompted other nations to reconsider their dealings with Iran. Japan has indefinitely suspended a $542 million loan to Iran. An Australian company gave up plans to build a pipeline to transport Iranian gas. Azerbaijan excluded Iran from a coveted Caspian oil development project. And Norway cut most economic and diplomatic links with Iran. However, that impact will dissipate without House action. There are more than 70 co-sponsors already on this legislation. More are needed so that House passage is assured, along with the daunting challenge of persuading other U.S. allies to end their trade, investments and provision of credits to Iran.
*Third, a House resolution and Senate letter will put Congress on record in support of Israel's fight against terror. They call upon Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to take specific, aggressive measures to combat terrorism and to demonstrate his commitment to peace or risk U.S. support for the Palestinian Authority. Arafat must carry out an unrelenting war against terrorists who threaten not only innocent Israelis, but the very possibility of peace and security for his own people. There can be no further vacillating.
History will not judge us well if we fail to take tough but necessary actions against terrorism and to ensure Israel's security. In the battle against the enemies of peace, Israel needs the unequivocal support of the United States and the international community. All civilized countries must understand that not only the Middle East peace process is at stake, but so are the norms of international behavior. Congress and the Clinton administration have an opportunity to put teeth into their commitment to confront terrorism and to back Israel. Let's support decisive action now.