One of us is a Democrat who strongly supports President Biden. The other, a Republican who just as strongly supports former President Trump. One of us backed Gov. Kathy Hochul’s reelection in 2022. The other ran against her. When we served together in Congress, we disagreed on many issues. But today, we put those disagreements aside in urging our former constituents to support Israel as it responds to this month's savage attacks on Israeli citizens.
Washington is a polarized place. If there is one issue that compels partisan combatants to put aside their differences and work together, it’s urging continued and sustained support for Israel — not only as a matter of Israel’s responsibility to protect its citizens, but in the national security interests of the United States.
We are heartened by the current expressions of international support for Israel. However, the weeks and months ahead will be difficult; and public opinion on Israel may turn, as it has in the past. We have been here before: Terrorists attack innocent Israeli civilians, the world condemns the terrorists, Israel retaliates, and the world condemns Israel. It's like a television rerun as old as the state of Israel itself — 75 years.
The most recent hours are a case in point. The world views horrific images of a hospital bombed in Gaza. Public opinion turns even before the facts are known, and despite intelligence reports suggesting the strike was caused by Hamas and/or Islamic Jihad.
This time must be different. This time, we must stand with Israel not when it’s easy, but when it may be harder. When the images recede of the shooting, murder, and abduction of Israeli babies and elderly, of mothers and fathers and children. When the bloodstained soil of a music festival for peace is faded. When the realities of Israel’s expected ground operation materialize and, with those images, the double standards and hypocrisy.
This time, we must remind our constituents, no matter what their political ideology.
Remember: In 2005, Israel unilaterally and unconditionally withdrew from Gaza hoping the government would export agriculture. Instead, a civil war waged within Gaza, Hamas purged Fatah, a more moderate political faction, and within days began exporting rocket attacks on Israel without provocation.
Remember: The misery of Gaza's population is caused by one party and one party only. Hamas obstructs its own citizens from moving to safe haven, continues a doctrine of using those civilians as human shields, and embeds its weaponry and command elements in schools and hospitals.
Remember: While many criticize Israel for the impoverishment of Gaza, somehow Hamas found the money to build attack tunnels and rocket launchers; procure rocket-propelled grenades, missile launchers, and sophisticated explosives; and train its terrorists in a sophisticated attack on Israel. Hamas could have built a nation of peace and stability. It funded a terrorist state and let its own people sink into economic despair.
Recently, over 65 former members of Congress from both sides of the aisle put political differences aside to work together to sustain support for Israel. That doesn’t mean we won’t disagree on specific issues. We’ll continue to state our differences on the economy, budgets, areas of foreign policy, and the upcoming presidential and congressional elections.
But one thing will be different. During this crisis, we, Republicans and Democrats, will bring focus and clarity not to what separates us, but what unites us: a bipartisan effort to emphasize the importance of supporting Israel in the difficult times ahead.
This guest essay reflects the views of former Long Island Reps. Steve Israel, a Democrat, and Lee Zeldin, a Republican.