The Middle East is a dynamic region that poses many opportunities and challenges in American foreign policy. While serving as the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) – the only American to have ever been elected to this position – I formed a working group to engage with Middle East nations on human rights and democracy, and to further strengthen relations between America and Europe. The United States must remain engaged in this region.
For more than half a century, the United States and Israel have shared the common bonds of democracy, economic vitality, and cultural affinity. I have been a staunch supporter of Israel throughout my entire life, and as of 2017, had travelled to Israel 18 times as a Member of Congress. Israel faces a number of significant security challenges, including the continued threat from Iran, the unrest caused by the Syrian civil war, terrorism from Hamas and Hezbollah, and lone-wolf acts of terror. In addition, lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process continues to exacerbate tensions in the region. I believe that Israelis and Palestinians alike deserve to live with dignity and free from fear of violence, and continue to support a two-state solution negotiated between the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and resulting in two states for two peoples, living side-by-side in mutual recognition.
The partnership between Israel and the United States goes well beyond security. Today, the United States and Israel work together in a number of areas, including energy, medical research, high-tech and innovation, academia, and more. Through partnerships such as the Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation and BIRD Energy, our countries work hand in hand to advance research and development cooperation in the private sector for the benefit of all. .As Co-Chair of the Congressional Democratic Israel Working Group, I work hard to educate Members of Congress about the importance of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, and routinely host events in Congress for Members to learn about Israel's many successes and challenges.
I have always been an advocate for peaceful and diplomatic solutions to the ongoing issues in the Middle East and the surrounding region. Iran has insisted on pursuing its dangerous course of action of developing nuclear weapons, and after years of sweeping sanctions, agreed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiated by the P5+1.
After careful review, I decided that I could not support the JCPOA agreement, as it allowed Iran to remain a nuclear threshold state and too quickly removed the sanctions that were so instrumental in bringing Iran to the negotiating table in the first place. This poses a threat not only to the United States, but also our allies. Now that the deal is in place, I believe that we must work to ensure that it accomplishes its intended goal. To this end, it must be made clear to Iran that if the diplomatically negotiated agreement falls short, no options are off the table.
The people of the United States and Tunisia share over 200 years of history, with rich cultural, economic, and security ties. Only three years after the United States declared its independence in 1776, our nation signed its first agreement of friendship and trade with Tunisia. We have since enjoyed a strong bilateral relationship as we have worked together to promote economic growth, ensure regional stability, and fight terrorism.
In 2011, Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution” captivated the international community and sparked what would become known as the “Arab Spring.” Since that time, Tunisians have elected a National Constituent Assembly; drafted, debated and adopted a constitution; and, in October and December of 2014, held successful legislative and presidential elections, respectively. During this historic time for Tunisia, bilateral and people-to-people cooperation between the United States and Tunisia are more important than ever before as Tunisians work to further strengthen their already impressive democratic gains.