On the heels of the vote for the confirmation of U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said he is confident Blinken will be “an ally of Israel.”
“I talked to him about it,” Portman, R-Cincinnati, said in response to a question from the Cleveland Jewish News in his weekly press call with reporters Jan. 26.
Portman apologized for being late to the press call because of the vote to confirm Blinken, who is Jewish.
“And you know my focus has been on ensuring there’s not a double standard for Israel, which I see in the United Nations constantly, and which happens globally with regard to boycott, sanctions and disinvestment,” Portman said.
He said he also asked President Joe Biden’s nominee for the United Nations ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, about issues regarding Israel.
“I got Mr. Blinken on the record saying he is against treating Israel in that way – that they ought to be treated fairly – and that he also supports the Abraham Accords,” Portman said. “I think that’s a positive thing.”
The Abraham Accords normalized relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco in 2020 under then-President Donald Trump.
“That’s been one of my focuses,” said Portman, referring to normalizing relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
Portman serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Commtitee.
”I’ve got legislation for expanded normalization with a Democrat that I’d love to get passed. … Now that it’s a … Democratic … Senate, he’ll take the lead on that, but we’ll get that done I hope,” he said.
In August 2020, Portman and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., introduced the Strengthening Reporting of Actions Taken Against the Normalization of Relations with Israel Act, which would require the State Department to include in its annual human rights report examples of Arab government efforts to undermine people-to-people engagement with Israeli citizens and residents. He said at the time he hoped the bill would encourage Arab League states to normalize relations with Israel.
Portman said Jan. 26 he received commitment from Blinken regarding that bill.
“So, I got good answers from him, and I believe that …
Secretary of State Blinken will be an ally of Israel,” he said. “I certainly hope so because that’s what he committed to.”