WASHINGTON - The House of Representatives approved legislation that would enhance homeland-security cooperation between the United States and Israel.
The bill is expected to pass in the Senate within the upcoming weeks.
The Promoting Anti-Terrorism Cooperation through Technology and Science Act, introduced by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Ranking Member Peter King (R-NY), would set up an office of international cooperation within the Homeland Security Department to foster joint public and private projects between the United States and five allies.
Israel stands alongside Britain, Australia, Canada and Singapore in the multilateral security act.
US-Israel homeland-security cooperation was formalized by an agreement signed earlier this month in Washington by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Israeli Public Security Minister Avi Dichter. But this bill would also award $25 million in grants to companies whose technology helps combat terror.
Sources in Israel and AIPAC worked for two years to advance this bill. The legislation did not pass the past two years due to disagreements between the House and the Senate.
This year, following the bill's approval in the House, it's chances in the Senate are excellent. The Senate's National Security Committee Chairman is Senator Joseph Lieberman, a strong supporter of the bill.
Additional proof of the strong relationship between Israel and the United States was seen during the Wednesday night meeting between US Secretary Condoleezza Rice and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik.
Itzik and Rice in Washington (Photo: Shachar Azran)
During the meeting, Rice stated that the Bush administration does not intend to back down from the demands it set for the Palestinian Authority government.
Rice said that there would be no dialogue with a government that did not meet Quartet preconditions. It's in our interest, too, she added.
The American stance, as it was presented in the meeting between Itzik and Rice, is that all parties should wait and see how the new PA government develops. In the meantime, Rice encouraged Israel to continue talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Rice intends to visit the Middle East again in the upcoming weeks. No concrete date has been set, but it is dependent on developments in the Palestinian government.