Miss. Senate Passes Bill Commending Israel

On Friday, the Mississippi Senate spent an hour debating a bill that commends Israel “for its cordial and mutually beneficial relationship with the United States and with the State of Mississippi.”

After the debate, the measure passed, 28-7, with about one-third of the 52-member Senate voting “present.” The measure then went to the House.

Updated March 20:
The Mississippi House unanimously passed the measure on Tuesday, as part of a package of resolutions.

The bill was proposed by Sen. Terry Brown, a Republican from Columbus. It begins by reiterating Israel’s claim to the land through “the oldest recorded deed” in scripture “held sacred and revered by Jews and Christians alike.”

The bill also states that the 650,000 Jewish residents of the territories “reside there legitimately” and recognizes “that Israel is neither an attacking force nor an occupier of the lands of others.”

Associated Press reporter Laura Tillman wrote that some senators questioned the bill’s “accuracy” and others said Mississippi shouldn’t be working on foreign policy matters, especially drawing boundaries in disputed areas.

Sen. Hob Bryan of Amory was quoted as saying “Are we doing such a great job handling the business of the state of Mississippi that we can now focus on Middle East borders?”

Bryan, who noted that “I think all of us support Israel,” offered an amendment that would specify the 1948 borders, but Brown opposed it and Sen. Nancy Adams Collins of Tupelo spoke against it. The amendment failed.

Last year, the Alabama Legislature passed a very similar measure, which was signed by Governor Robert Bentley on Feb. 28, 2012. Another solidarity resolution was passed in 2004.

Last May, the Louisiana Legislature also passed a bill supporting Israel, with the Senate voting 36-0 in favor.

What is the relationship?

In 2012, Mississippi exports to Israel totaled $29 million, ranking 39th among Mississippi trading partners — far below the exports to Israel from neighbors Alabama and Louisiana. There was also $700,000 in Foreign Military Financing contracts in Mississippi, which is part of U.S. aid to Israel.

In 2009, Israel Aerospace Industries moved assembly lines to Starkville, where they build drones at Stark Aerospace, an IAI subsidiary.

In October 2010, Israeli Minister of National Infrastructure Uzi Landau came to Mississippi to visit Stark, along with government and business leaders in the state.

In the 1990s, Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula produced three Sa’ar 5 corvettes for the Israeli Navy.

In 2011, Governor Haley Barbour spent five days in Israel before ultimately deciding not to run for president. Rep. Steve Palazzo was part of an 81-member Congressional delegation that visited that summer, and in January 2012 Sen. Thad Cochran went to Israel with Sens. Inouye and Mikulski.

In late 2011, HCL CleanTech, a Herzliya company, announced it was establishing its U.S. headquarters in Olive Branch. The state passed a $100 million incentive package for the project, which was projected to bring 800 jobs to the state. Last year the company changed its name to Virdia.

Currently 23 states have cooperative agreements with Israel, Mississippi does not. Alabama does, while Louisiana, which had Israel as the 6th largest market for the state’s exports in 2012, does not.

Mississippi and Louisiana are not among the 36 states that have benefitted from Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation grants. BIRD was formed in 1977 to fund U.S.-Israeli joint projects to develop and bring to market non-defense technological products.

Mississippi is working with the Binational Science Foundation, with $150,000 in grants since 1996 to promote scientific relations and cooperation between U.S. and Israeli scientists.

The University of Mississippi and Mississippi State have received Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund grants. Two Mississippi State professors had a three-year grant with a Hadassah Medical School research team to develop a vaccine to fight a major disease affecting the carp industry.

Another BARD grant funded joint research leading to COTMOD, a computer model showing how several factors affect cotton production. The system saves growers about $48 per bale.

According to the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, “The potential for greater cooperation with Israel for the benefit of Mississippi is limited only by the imagination.”