Portman Joins Bipartisan Push to Sustain High-Level U.S. Military Engagement for Peace and Stability in Israel & the West Bank

June 17, 2022 | Press Releases

Portman Joins Bipartisan Push to Sustain High-Level U.S. Military Engagement for Peace and Stability in Israel & the West Bank  

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) joined his Senate colleagues in urging for protection of a key U.S. military and diplomatic post in the Middle East. The bipartisan group of 32 senators sent a letter to the Biden administration, calling for them to maintain the United States Security Coordinator (USSC) position at the three-star rank in the face of reported plans to downgrade it to a non-general or flag officer.

Based in Jerusalem, the USSC serves as a crucial liaison between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and leads international coalition efforts in support of peace and stability. The USSC is a joint, international, interagency office with Department of Defense service members assigned to the State Department.

Axios reported earlier this month the Pentagon is considering downgrading the position to Colonel, which the senators warn would undermine U.S. national security and risk peace and stability in Israel and the West Bank.

“Given continued regional volatility, steadfast high-level U.S. leadership and engagement to support peace and stability in Israel and the West Bank remain in the national security interest of the United States,” the senators wrote. “Downgrading this position would undermine critical security programs and degrade communications between Israelis and Palestinians, which the USSC facilitates. Such a downgrade would also risk fracturing the U.S.-led international coalition committed to strengthening security and stability in Israel and the West Bank.”

Along with Portman, senators joining the letter included Senators Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jim Risch (R-ID), Dick Durbin (D-IL), John Kennedy (R-LA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Alex Padilla (D-CA), John Hoeven (R-ND), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Susan Collins (R-ME), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Chris Coons (D-DE), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Mark Warner (D-VA).

You can view the full letter here or below.

Secretary Austin,

We write to urge that the United States Security Coordinator (USSC) for Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Jerusalem remain an officer of three-star rank and not be downgraded below that level. Given continued regional volatility, steadfast high-level U.S. leadership and engagement to support peace and stability in Israel and the West Bank remain in the national security interest of the United States.

The USSC coordinates multilateral efforts toward peace and stability and serves as a critical liaison between Israeli and PA security forces. Downgrading this position would undermine U.S. leadership and credibility in a region where it is essential to have a high-ranking officer who can engage with other nations’ highest-level military leaders.


The European Union, United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Poland and others count on the USSC to provide this leadership. Downgrading this position would undermine critical security programs and degrade communications between Israelis and Palestinians, which the USSC facilitates. Such a downgrade would also risk fracturing the U.S.- led international coalition committed to strengthening security and stability in Israel and the West Bank.


We understand Congress has required the Department to reduce the aggregate number of flag and general officers, and this requirement may have driven consideration of this change.


Nevertheless, we urge you not to downgrade this position at a time when U.S. leadership in the region is critical, and we stand ready to work with you to amend the law as necessary to support this vital policy objective.


Sincerely,

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