Visiting the Holy Land
On a recent trip to Israel, I heard the gripping words of Natan Sharansky who told an assembled audience of Israeli, American and European dignitaries about his eight years in a Siberian gulag, and what freedom means to someone like him. I was moved to tears by his powerful words as they strengthened my desire to one day see a Middle East where Muslim, Christian and Jew can live together without fear of violence, free of the centuries-old hatred that poisons that great Holy Land.
This vision may seem myopic with Hamas and Fatah engaged in a struggle for Palestinian supremacy, sectarian violence in Iraq that has colored the political landscape throughout the region, and the recent war between Israel and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Such strife has been the norm since Israel declared its independence in 1948. That war was followed by the hostilities at the Suez Canal in 1956, the Six Day War in 1967, the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the conflict in Lebanon which spanned nearly two decades, the Palestinian intifada, and the seemingly endless seesaw of suicide bombings and military operations that have scarred the region.
I have long supported an American foreign policy that recognizes the right of a Jewish state to exist in the Middle East, one that aggressively advocates for the protection and preservation of democratic states in that part of the world, including Israel. America cannot be neutral, for instance, in the debate between the goals and aspirations of Israel and the Palestinian organization Hamas, which has yet to recognize Israel’s right to exist. While peace in the Middle East is our ultimate goal, it cannot happen when major political factions do not even recognize the Jewish state. And we cannot turn a blind eye to the agenda of a terrorist organization like Hezbollah, nor to states that help finance their acts of terror like Iran.
That is why, during my visit to Israel, I expressed my support for Texas divestment from companies that do business with Iran. I recently signed similar legislation in protest of the outrageous state-sponsored genocide in Sudan. If Texas were its own nation, it would rank as the world’s tenth largest economy. If we were to divest pension fund assets from any involvement with companies that do business in Iran, they would surely feel the economic ramifications for their irresponsible actions.
Iran poses two particular threats today. First, its pursuit of a nuclear program endangers not only Israel, but also the balance of power in the entire Middle East region. This certainly concerns the western democratic world, but seriously threatens moderate Arab states whose ability to experience peace and prosperity in their region is compromised by the prospect of a nuclear-capable Iran.
Second, we must recognize the aggressive approach Iran has taken in financing terrorist activities, such as arming terror groups like Hezbollah, still waging a war of attrition with Israel as warring Palestinian factions do the same. Should Hezbollah continue to gain power in Lebanon, while Hamas strengthens its hold on Palestinian territories, this grave threat to Israel and to our western, democratic values will become the defining stigma of our lifetime. America cannot be neutral in the face of such a serious threat.
After walking the 2,000 year old streets below the Temple Mount, dining atop the Aish Hatorah World Center overlooking the Western Wall, taking a boat ride on the Red Sea, crossing into Jordan to visit the ancient city of Petra, and traveling to the Dead Sea, it is my hope that this special land of historical and religious significance can one day be home to people of different faiths who live in peace. That peace cannot be realized, however, as long as rogue nations like Iran pursue policies aimed at destabilizing the entire region. They must be dealt with. Though our state cannot pursue its own foreign policy, we can pursue economic policies that are consistent with the promotion of peace and the deterrence of terrorism.
People like Natan Sharansky, who felt the oppression of tyranny, deserve a homeland that protects their liberty. Jew, Christian, Gentile and Muslim alike deserve such a place. Our aim should be to pressure nations that threaten the peace with measures that make their behavior too costly to continue.
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