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Pols Field Calls From Constituents

August 3, 2006 By:
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Chaka Fattah
Like the White House, members of Congress have largely been supportive of Israel's war against Hezbollah, even after a July 30 Israeli air strike on the Lebanese village of Kana -- which Israel said was not intentional and pledged to investigate -- killed more than 50 civilians and led to heightened international criticism of Israel's tactics.

Even in America, where public support for Israel is generally high, the sentiment seems mixed. A USA Today-Gallop Poll taken between July 21 and July 23 found that 83 percent of Americans felt that Israel was justified to respond to Hezbollah's July 12 raid. At the same time, 50 percent felt that Israel had gone too far.

By overwhelmingly passing a resolution on July 18 that definitively laid the blame for the crisis on Hezbollah -- and expressed support for Israel's ensuing military endeavors -- the U.S. House of Representatives early interjected themselves into the debate about the appropriate use of force.

A Steady Stream
The fact that the conflict has dominated the news cycle for the better part of three weeks has caused a steady stream of calls to flow into the Washington-based and the district offices of Pennsylvania legislators.

Curt Weldon (R-District 7) put his support for Israel front and center last week by speaking at a solidarity rally organized by the Jewish community at Philadelphia's Love Park, declaring that "if we don't stand with Israel today, we won't be able to stand as a nation tomorrow."

Dozens of constituents called Weldon's offices expressing their support for Israel, according to spokesman John Tomaszewski. But at last half-a-dozen calls, including a number of e-mail messages, came in expressing "differences of opinion."

Sen. Rick Santorum's (R-Pa.) offices in Pennsylvania have received "a slightly higher number of calls, both expressing support of what Israel is doing and out of concern," according to spokesman Robert Traynham.

He could not provide a specific number, but said that the amount pales in comparison to, say, the inundation from Pennsylvanians during the 1998 impeachments hearings for President Bill Clinton -- both for and against Clinton.

Ron Goldwyn, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-District 2) said that initially, people expressed unwavering support for Israel, though as the conflict has continued, the tone has changed somewhat.

"A majority of recent callers -- including those identifying themselves as Jews -- have called on the United States to take an active role in stopping the violence," wrote Goldwyn in an e-mail.

Fattah has been outspoken about his desire for America to broker a cease-fire between the parties.

"On July 14, I called on President [George W. Bush] and Secretary [of State Condoleezza] Rice to become actively involved in developing a resolution to the crisis," said Fattah. "Now they are involved, and I believe the United States should be as forceful as necessary."

'Israel Will Prevail'
U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-District 13) has repeatedly said that being the daughter of a Holocaust survivor has shaped her support for Israel.

Her office has received several dozen phone calls, split almost evenly between supporters and detractors of Israel.

"Hezbollah and Hamas are responsible for this violence," proclaimed Schwartz on the House floor. "The United States will stand with Israel as it confronts the evil and terror of Hezbollah and Hamas. I am confident that Israel will prevail in this fight."

And U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-District 6) expressed sentiments along those same lines.

"The United States has no greater friend in the world than Israel," announced Gerlach. "Our friends are once again forced to defend themselves against terrorists. It's unimaginable what the Israelis are going through right now."

Josh Block, a spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said that Israelis can count on congressional support -- no matter how long the fighting continues: "The administration will remain solidly in support of the difficult work that Israel is undertaking." 

 

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