Last week, we held our fourth annual CUFI Washington, DC summit. It was a powerful and moving event.
In the middle of this terrible economic downturn, more people than ever before made the trip to Washington to stand with Israel at a critical juncture. They not only came, but they brought with them their unwavering support and uplifting energy. When well over 4,000 enthusiastic CUFI members gathered in the Washington DC Convention Center for our National Night to Honor Israel — with millions more watching the live television broadcast — we sent a strong pro-Israel message to our leaders down the street and to our fellow citizens across the nation. When these same delegates went up to Capitol Hill the following day, they made concrete progress towards building support for urgent legislation sanctioning Iran (see below).
The fact is that those who support Israel have felt besieged in recent months. It seems that Israel is being singled out for criticism and pressure. Israel’s repeated risks for peace are forgotten. Consistent Palestinian refusals to accept a two-state solution and curb terror are ignored. Meanwhile the greatest threat to the Middle East and beyond — Iran’s daily progress towards nuclear weapons — has been relegated to a back burner.
Our conference helped to send a strong message to our leaders in Washington and our friends in Israel that American Christians continue to stand solidly behind Israel. We reiterated Israel’s long history of compromises and risks for peace. We restated the record of Palestinian obstruction and terror. We refocused attention on the true threats to peace in the Middle East: Palestinian rejectionism and Iranian aggression.
As we stood proudly with Israel, we were joined by some of the most important leaders in Washington and Israel. Senator Joseph Lieberman, Congressman Eric Cantor and Congresswoman Shelly Berkley came to speak to us. Israel’s new Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, and Israel’s Consul General in New York, Assaf Shariv, also shared with us. Nationally syndicated radio hosts Dennis Prager and Michael Medved made passionate keynote speeches. And Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu joined us live via Satellite. We united Democrats and Republicans, Americans and Israelis, Jews and Gentiles in support of Israel. It was powerful. And it was hopeful.
Perhaps most importantly, our Capitol Hill visits have already produced concrete results. When our members met with their Congressmen on Wednesday, they urged them to co-sponsor two urgent pieces of legislation which would ratchet up the economic pressure on Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program. The first of these bills — the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act — has received 22 new co-sponsors since our visit. The second bill — The Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act — has gained 18 new co-sponsors since our visit. These results should encourage us to further activism until these bills become law. There is simply no excuse for not using all peaceful means at our disposal to ensure that Iran does not become a nuclear power.
To all the CUFI members who made the trip, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Your sacrificial visit made a difference. Your voice was heard. Your comfort was received. And for all those unable to join us this year, I pray that circumstances permit you to join us next year. In the meantime, watch your e-mail boxes. Our work has only just begun.