Did the U.S. just create a new category for best-friend allies?

Did the United States just create a new designation for its special relationship with Israel? Some news sources seem to think so. The National put it succinctly:

It was widely reported last week that this year's Aipac conference, which ends tomorrow, will culminate in a mass lobbying effort by attendees to persuade law makers to officially designate Israel a major strategic ally of the United States, a designation that until now has never been awarded.

So does the bill, the "U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act," actually make a new class of alliance for Israel? Is the House about to name Israel a super-best-friend-for-life ally of the United States?

No. They're not.

The bill, which can be accessed online here, simply states that, "Congress declares that Israel is a major strategic partner of the United States." Nowhere in the bill does it define or codify this terminology; it doesn't grant special privileges like, say, being the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid or being permitted nuclear weapons without pressure to sign conventions regulating them, both of which are already part of U.S.-Israel policy. It is just a "declaration of policy," much in the way that last year's "U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012" stated:

It is the policy of the United States to reaffirm our unwavering commitment to the security of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. As President Barack Obama stated on December 16, 2011, "America's commitment and my commitment to Israel and Israel's security is unshakeable." And as President George W. Bush stated before the Israeli Knesset on May 15, 2008, on the 60th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, "The alliance between our governments is unbreakable, yet the source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty."

The new legislation, which extends existing legislation on military, cyber, and energy cooperation, does not alter Israel's formal designation as a "major non-NATO ally" of the United States (other major non-NATO allies make for some strange bedfellows, including Egypt, Afghanistan, and Pakistan). At this point, in other words, there's no need for other U.S. allies to start getting jealous about new official labels -- there aren't any.

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Top Democratic aide: We can't move forward until Paul stops

Update: John Brennan will not be confirmed as CIA director tonight. "We're through for the night," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, after attemping to bring Sen. Rand Paul's filibuster to a close and force a confirmation vote. Paul refused to stop his filibuster until the White House promises that it will not unilaterally order a drone strike on an American in the United States who isn't an immediate threat. 

A Democratic leadership aide tells FP that Democrats will try again tomorrow to confirm Brennan. "We still expect to file cloture before the end of the day, and are still hoping to secure an agreement to hold the vote tomorrow," the aide said. "(Assuming we file cloture today, we will still need a UC [unanimous consent] agreement to hold the vote tomorrow since the cloture process would take us into the weekend if we have to burn all the time)." 

Original post:

A final vote on John Brennan's confirmation was set to take place as early as today, but now all bets are off thanks to Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's fillibuster attempt. 

A frustrated Democratic leadership aide tells Foreign Policy that Paul's long-winded speech against drone strikes is preventing Democratic and Republican leaders from scheduling a time to vote on Brennan's confirmation, which Democrats say already has the 60-plus votes needed. 

"We are seeking an agreement with Republicans to hold a vote today at a 60-vote threshold," the aide said. "Senator Paul is, obviously, preventing us from getting a time agreement to set up a vote on the Brennan nomination."

At last check, Paul was joined by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) in the filibuster effort, which began at 11:47 a.m. East Coast time. "We are still cautiously optimistic that we'll be able to secure an agreement once Senator Paul ends his filibuster, but only Senator Paul knows when that will be," the aide told FP.

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