WASHINGTON — With final passage of the US-Israel Strategic Partnership Act on Wednesday, Congress has created a new category of partnership in law specifically for the state of Israel.
Declared a “major strategic partner”— a designation held by no other country— the law seeks to establish a new framework within the category that will enhance cooperation across industries, with a focus on defense technologies.
The designation is an upgrade for Israel from “major non-NATO ally,” the country’s legal status as a US ally since 1988.
The president is authorized, the law reads, to “share and exchange with Israel research, technology, intelligence, information, equipment, and personnel that will advance US national security interests; and enhance US.-Israel scientific cooperation.”
The law calls for an “expanded role” for Israel with NATO.
Now to US President Barack Obama’s desk, the act was authored by Congressmen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Ed Royce (R-CA) , Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO).
Hill aides said they expect the president to sign the act into law. The White House declined to comment on its passage on Wednesday evening.
“This legislation names Israel as a major strategic partner, demonstrating that our relationship is not transactional. It’s not assistance-based,” said Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) on the House floor on Wednesday.
Specifically, Engel said, the bill will “build on our robust defense cooperation… ramp up US-Israel collaboration on cybersecurity, expand US-Israel energy cooperation, and reaffirm our commitment to Israel’s QME, or qualitative military edge.”
The president is given new authorization to grant assistance to cooperative efforts on energy, water, homeland security, agriculture and alternative fuel technologies. The act also seeks to promote academic partnerships, similar to Cornell University’s recent alliance with the Technion in New York.
“A Hamas plot to kill scores of Israelis was uncovered just last week, while a regime in Tehran seeks to acquire a nuclear warhead and the missiles to deliver it. All this while ISIS is at Israel’s front doorstep,” said Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “That is why today’s legislation is so important.”