WASHINGTON – At least a dozen members of Congress popped into the Jerusalem Conference's six-hour event Tuesday to show support for strengthening U.S.-Israeli ties.
The conference focused on ensuring Israel's presence in the Middle East,condemning the United Nation's Goldstone report and discussing Iran's volatility with nuclear weapons.
The Goldstone commission reported that Israel and Hamas had committed war crimes in Gaza during fighting that erupted in December.
The seventh annual conference was the first held in the U.S. It provides a forum to promote dialogue between Israeli and U.S. officials. The next conference will be held in February in Jerusalem.
Israel Defense Forces Lt. Col. Jonathan D. Halevi presented what he said was wrong with the report,including the background of the witnesses interviewed and the questions asked. Halevi,a senior researcher on the Middle East and radical Islam at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs,said the report took Palestinian testimony at face value without consulting anyone from Israel.
A Palestine Liberation Organization spokeswoman said in an interview that the Palestinian ambassador to the U.S., Maen Areikat,said the Goldman report is “an issue that we want to move forward from.”
The night of the conference,the U.S. House of Representatives voted to denounce the report,claiming it is biased.
Rep. Howard Berman,D-Calif.,and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,R-Fla.,sponsors of the bill,spoke to the 200 people in the audience. Berman said the Obama administration is an ardent supporter of Israel.
“I was a Zionist before I was a Democrat,” Berman said. “This administration is serious about preventing a nuclear Iran.”
Concerns about Iran resonated throughout the conference,with many saying sanctions need to be taken against the country.
Members of Congress spoke about the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act of 2009,which a U.S. House committee approved Oct. 28. The bill,sponsored by Berman,would require actions be taken against anyone who gives resources toward Iran's efforts to “maintain or expand its domestic production of refined petroleum resources.”
If Iran is able to purchase nuclear weapons,many at the conference said they believe Israel would be its first target.
“There are people who want to take Israel off the map,and the U.S. is next,” said Sen. James Inhofe,R-Ok.