Transcript: Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Steny Hoyer (D-MD)

Monday March 5, 2018

Arne Christenson: Welcome.

Rep. Steny Hoyer: A few of your closest friends, I take it.

Arne Christenson: Yes, and a nice video. You guys looked good.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy: It was warm during that time too.

Rep. Steny Hoyer: A good photographer, obviously.

Arne Christenson: But one of many trips you've both made to Israel. You've seen the land many times. I wanted to talk a bit about some of the security challenges Israel is facing. Congressman McCarthy in this last trip, you were on the Golan Heights. You looked over the Lebanese border. You saw mortar fire. Give us a sense of – as Israel faces the threats they face today – Hezbollah missiles, Iran entrenching in Syria – what are some of the things the U.S. and Israel can do together to respond to that?

Rep. Kevin McCarthy: First of all, I want to thank anyone who participates in the education fund [American Israel Education Foundation] because it is life-changing for any member to go to Israel. When we went to that northern border – and we've done it times before – much more serious today than it's ever been. To me, we've got a 70-year history between the relationships and the partnerships, and we have the same threat: Iran.

And Iran entrenching itself – Russia promised they would not – have not kept their promise. What we've done inside the House – and this is bipartisan, the way we deal with most of this – you have the Royce-Engel new bill that just came out to go after the Guard [Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps]. What the world needs to know, normally the regular army of Iran does not leave its home front. They allow them to go into Syria. That, to me, is unacceptable. This is the place that we need to draw the line and America cannot stand to allow Iran to stay.

Arne Christenson: Congressman Hoyer?

Rep. Steny Hoyer: Arne, I would add – I agree with Kevin, of course – we're going to have at some point in time a resolution in some form or another in Syria. One of the absolute essentials that America must require is that Iran have no presence in Syria as a result of that agreement.

Kevin and I will both be supporting, as well, sanctions on those who either finance, help support, or help further the maligned mission of the IRGC, which is really a force unto itself, and we need to treat it as such and be very cognizant of the threat that it causes, not only to Israel but to the Middle East stability.

Arne Christenson: And give us a sense in – obviously another thing that's critical is support for missile defense, and the other things that the U.S supplies to Israel. Give us a sense of what the state of support is right now in both the Democrat and Republican caucuses on those issues.

Rep. Steny Hoyer: Well, I think, you know, Kevin and I sponsored a resolution, as you know, some months ago that got essentially unanimous support for Israel. And when you speak of missile defense, one of the things that we all made clear was that Iran, under the U.N. request, should not be testing or developing missiles which can attack Israel and/or the entire Middle East, and we need to make sure that we implement the sanctions that have been passed, and if new sanctions are necessary, be prepared to enforce them.

Let me say that missile defense is one of the areas where I think Israel and the United States could really be cooperative, as well as space, tunneling, drones, which we've seen such a dramatic consequence of just recently where Israel acted absolutely properly when you had an Iranian missile attack.

So, we need to be very vigorous, and with respect to missiles, not only sanctioning but developing even better defenses than we have already developed.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy: I think to build off of what Steny says – and I hope you realize that this issue is not a partisan issue. It's not that Steny and I come out because you – (Applause) – we're not here because you invite us together. There's a reason why we go to Israel together. We sat and we talked. We meet quite often. It's not as the television portrays it to be.

Rep. Steny Hoyer: Would that we agreed on some other issues as much as we agree on the issue so critical to all of us in this room.

Arne Christenson: You've got to start somewhere.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy: Three main points you've got to look at. When you look at the agreement, we've got to take care of that sunset clause because it's going to end and we can't allow that to happen. There is no reason for Iran to be having ballistic missiles or testing; none whatsoever.

And then we need strict enforcement. But one part that Steny brought up that's very clear: we know the challenge when it comes to tunneling and the technology that we need working together. Now, it's very important that we just got a budget agreement because in that budget agreement we're able to deal with our military getting through the sequester challenge that we've had. Now, we're going to take up, hopefully next week, the rest of that omni[bus], and that really puts us in a stronger position for missile defense and others.

And you look what's happening around the world, it's not – I'm fearful of Iran but I'm fearful of somebody else sharing the technology as well. This is why we have to just work hand-in-hand especially when it comes to tunneling technology because it's beginning to show up in Syria as well.

Arne Christenson: Yeah.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy: Yes. We can't allow this to happen.

Rep. Steny Hoyer: Let me make a point. Kevin and I did not vote the same way on JCPOA. I think we both felt the same way and one of the things we have to recognize: that agreement clearly was not perfect. That agreement clearly should have dealt, in my opinion with the nonnuclear malign destabilizing activity that Iran precipitates. It also should have dealt with a permanent solution, not a temporary solution. So, I'm supportive, as Kevin is, of us moving towards renegotiation, cooperating with our European partners –

Arne Christenson: Right; as is happening right now.

Rep. Steny Hoyer: As is happening right now – but to ensure that in fact Iran never – not just for seven years, 10 years, 25 years – never has a nuclear capability that can threaten Israel, the Middle East, or the world.

Arne Christenson: Absolutely. When you talk about Israel, you spend a lot of time talking about the security challenges, but there's so much that's so optimistic about Israel and about Israel's future. I'd like to close by just asking both of you, as you think of Israel's 70th anniversary coming up now in two months, what are some of the things that most excite you about Israel's future for the next 70 years? Congressman Hoyer?

Rep. Steny Hoyer: Well, first of all, I think you refer to Israel as the miracle in the Middle East.

Arne Christenson: That's right.

Rep. Steny Hoyer: When you talk about startup nation, when you talk about bringing desert back to life and productivity, you talk about a people that has demonstrated, not only extraordinary courage or it would not have survived, but extraordinary, innovative, entrepreneurial, inventive development skills, which have transformed Israel into one of the great economic powers in the world, and that is to the benefit of the United States, certainly to Israel, and to stability long-term in the Middle East.

So I see a very bright future for Israel if – and this is very important – we stand strong against those who would destroy Israel and all that it means to the world.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy: Think for one moment: 70 years, a close partnership, 13 presidents, Republican and Democrat, and I would say we're probably even closer today. That is a great relationship.

Rep. Steny Hoyer: Yep.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy: No bond [like this] can be broken. But you asked the question about the future. I think when Bibi came to the House to speak to the House and Senate, he made this statement. (applause) You could applaud. I mean, it's good. I applaud too.

Israel is not just a story of the Jewish people, it is of the human spirit again and again not succumbing to the horrors of history, and that to me only means the future is going to be brighter.

When I look at what you do with technology, what you do with democracy – and we don't stand together just because we have a bond, that bond is created because we believe in democracy; that bond is created because we stand against these rogue nations that want to destroy both of us; the bond is there because we believe in freedom. That is a bond that will only grow stronger and, my belief is, will only make the world better.

Arne Christenson: Absolutely. Well, Congressman McCarthy, Congressman Hoyer, I hope it's obvious to you how much everyone in this room appreciates your leadership and all you do for the U.S.-Israel. Thank you.

Rep. Steny Hoyer: Thank you Arne. Thank all of you. Keep the faith. Keep on fighting. We're going to win.

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