The U.S. Senate unanimously adopted the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act on Thursday evening. The bipartisan bill, which declares Israel to be a “major strategic partner,” was authored by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) and had 81 co-sponsors.
“America’s long-standing relationship and strong cooperation with Israel dates back to the presidency of fellow Missourian Harry S. Truman,” Blunt said in a statement.
Besides generally elevating the status of the U.S.-Israel relationship, the bill expands the Jewish state’s trade status to expedite export licensing, increases cooperation on energy and other technologies, maintains Israel’s qualitative military edge in the Middle East, and increases U.S. weapons stockpiles in Israel as well as Israeli access to them.
But notably left out of the bill is Israel’s inclusion into the U.S. visa waiver program, which has been held up over concerns about Israelis overstaying visas in the U.S. as well as objections by the U.S. State Department over Israeli border policies, which State has called “discriminatory.”
At the same time, a congressional source told the Jerusalem Post that the visa waiver program has become controversial in Congress in recent weeks for reasons “entirely unrelated to Israel,” but instead “because of what is going on with ISIS (Islamic State).”
The “major strategic partner” bill has been promoted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and a similar bill was passed by the U.S. House in March.
“This bill will dramatically strengthen and expand the U.S.-Israel alliance as a way to confront new threats and challenges in the Middle East,” AIPAC said in a statement.