A conversation with Congressman Randy Forbes

by | Apr 22, 2016 | Other News

Congressman Randy Forbes

Congressman Randy Forbes

Congressman Randy Forbes has been the U.S. Representative for Virginia’s 4th congressional district since 2001.

A member of the Republican Party, Forbes is chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee. He also is assigned to the Committee on Education and the Workforce and to the Committee on the Judiciary.

A native of Chesapeake, Forbes was valedictorian of his class at Randolph- Macon College in 1974 and earned his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1977. From 1989 to 1997, he served in the Virginia House of Delegates and in the Virginia State Senate from 1997 until 2001.

During a recent visit to the Reba and Sam Sandler Campus of the Tidewater Jewish Community, Congressman Forbes took some time to speak with Jewish News.

Jewish News: You have demonstrated strong support of Israel. Do you think the Congressional support of Israel is solid and bipartisan?

Congressman Randy Forbes: I do. The short answer is “Yes.”

The problem with Congress is that it shifts every two years, where that support is not always there. I believe it is strong now. The support is basically bi-partisan, though it has not been as strong with this Administration.

Still, from a Congressional point of view, the support is very strong and from a military to military point of view…the places where it counts, intelligence sharing—all of that is working very close today with Israel.

JN: Will you support the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) that Israel is proposing?

RF: Yes, I would support the one that the Israeli government is presenting. The United States had an MOU of $30 billion support over 10 years, which is about to expire. The USA is proposing $40 billion over the next 10 years. The Israeli government wants $50 billion over 10 years. The most dangerous thing about the Administration’s proposed MOU is that it has a provision that it can’t be adjusted and increased up…even if the next Congress wants to do so.

The reason it needs to be higher is that the world has become more dangerous— especially with the release of more than $100 billion to Iran, which is huge. The MOU is very important for us to support.

Remember, every $1 we give to Israel is not just for Israel, it is working for us, too. The advantage we get out of every dollar is well worth the investment. Israel has been the best friend we’ve had in the Middle East.

JN: Why did you not support the Administration’s position on Iran and what is your position on renewing the Iran Sanctions Act?

RF: It is a terrible deal that doesn’t stop their nuclear program. It baffles me how we can enter into an agreement to remove sanctions with a country that says they want to destroy the United States and Israel. They actually launch missiles that have ‘Death to Israel’ written on them.

I think we will look back on the deal and think it was the worst deal the United States has ever made.

We should stop the release of assets and keep economic sanctions. Though it might be too difficult to get them back in place at this point. There’s basically no policing Iran.

It is bordering on insanity to think that we’ve taken away our right to spontaneous inspections and then send money to people who declare their hostility to us.

JN: What would you like Jewish News readers to know about your support of Israel and what can the Jewish community can do to support the U.S./Israel alliance?

RF: I see far too many people who consistently say, “What can they do?” not “What can I do?” We are all only one person, and though we can’t do everything, we can do something.

In our support of Israel, I believe we need to have three things:
• The right vision or strategy of what that support should look like
• A commitment to that support and vision
• Persistence to get into positions to be able to implement that vision and degree of commitment.

Some people have the total wrong vision; some have right vision, but no commitment; some have the right vision and commitment, but aren’t in the right position to do it. The wonderful thing about where I am in my life is that chairing the subcommittee that I chair, which is responsible for all of the major platforms of the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Air Force (and I hopefully will be the next chairman of the House Armed Services Committee), is that I believe it puts me into a position where I not only have the right strategy, I have proven through the years that I have the right commitment and will be in a position to implement it.

I have visited Israel more times than I can count. It is a wonderful experience and such a rich part of our history and faith.

I have been able to sit multiple times with Prime Ministers Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon. Those kinds of meetings and trips make it possible to understand that this is not a video game. I have made it a practice that no matter where I am around the world, I always try to make the plane land in Israel. Just the fact that we are being there is hugely important, because people watch it and that sends a message to the world that we are standing with Israel.

We can’t lose this chairmanship. The chairmanship (House Armed Services Committee) is not only huge for this area, it is huge for our relationship with Israel and the things that we are able to do on the Armed Services Committee.

As far as what people can do to show support, it is hugely important for people to take time to come to Congress to meet with people. You can’t just wait until an issue pops up. I appreciate that people leave their jobs and travel to Washington to talk to about how important our relationship with Israel is.

We can’t assume that the relationship will always be there and have the U.S. support.

JN: In a recent interview on NPR, Congressman Scott Rigell described the situation in Washington, DC as “becoming unhinged.” How do you feel about the political climate?

RF: It’s not just Washington, it’s the current culture. Across America, wherever I go, people are worried that the world is slipping through their fingers—that no one is listening. When people feel that way, they get louder, then they get shrill, then uncivil. The presidential debates, for example, have lost civility.

We can’t call each other names and then expect to get along.

The world needs us to come together and compromise, without giving up on issues. The Virginia delegation, for example, gets together regularly for lunch. We are looking for intersections on issues to move people forward. We are a bi-partisan committee. We build relationships without compromising principals. We find intersections, so it’s not all about politics.