Grappling for a way to assist Israel, lawmakers will consider legislation that would require the State Department to offer as much as $5 million for information on the kidnapping and murder of a U.S.-Israeli dual citizen, whose killing along with two other boys has sparked days of relentless fighting between Israel and Hamas.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will debate and mark up the bill on Wednesday. A companion bill in the House had not yet been put on the House Foreign Affairs Committee calendar.
"The Israeli government's recent action against Hamas is a just and appropriate mission to both bring the terrorists responsible to justice and to degrade their capability to launch further attacks," said Sen. Ted Cruz, the lead sponsor of the Senate bill.
"Given [Naftali Fraenkel's] citizenship, I believe the United States should demonstrate our clear support for Israel by offering a reward as we traditionally have in terrorist attacks involving Americans," Cruz added. "This support should be understood in the context of our partnership with the nation of Israel in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism, which is our fight as well."
The U.S. has offered cash rewards for intelligence on international terrorist activity through the Rewards for Justice program in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security at the State Department since 1984. More than $125 million has been paid to roughly 80 people who provided actionable information that led to the arrest of suspected terrorists or the prevention of terrorist activity.
Traditionally, the decision to recommend to the secretary of State that a reward be offered is left up to the federal agencies involved in a terrorism case, although Congress has weighed in on previous incentives, such as when the Senate voted in 2007 to double the reward for Osama bin Laden.
This case is distinct in that the United States is looking to assist another country as it searches for more information about the kidnapping of three teenagers — Fraenkel as well as Israelis Gilad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah.
"The fact that one of the three boys was American is significant," said Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado, the primary sponsor of the House bill. "It's important that America show resolve and bring to justice those who kill Americans abroad."