Sunday, October 9, 2011

7 ranking Republican congressmen to visit Israel to show support

(Mati Tuchfeld-Israelhayom). Seven members of the U.S. Congress, all from the Republican party, are scheduled to visit Israel during October, the first month of the Knesset's winter session. Trip organizer MK Danny Danon (Likud), chairman of World Likud and the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, said on Saturday, “The visit proves without a doubt that we are not alone in our political conflict with the Palestinians.”

The seven congressmen are Jim Jordan (Ohio), chairman of the Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending subcommittee, and a member of the National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations subcommittee; John Fleming (Louisiana), a member of the Strategic Forces and Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittees; Peter Roskam (Illinois) and Doug Lamborn (Colorado), co-chairmen of the Republican Israel Caucus; Louie Gohmert (Texas), chairman of the Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security subcommittee; Randy Forbes (Virginia), chairman of the Judiciary Committee and a member of Armed Services Committee; and John Carter (Texas), co-chairman of the House Army Caucus.

The visit is one of several moves in the U.S. taken recently on behalf of Israel. The moves have continuously shown U.S. support in the wake of Israel's struggle against the Palestinian bid for statehood.

In September, members of Congress introduced a series of pro-Israel bills. Senior Republican representative Joe Walsh, of Illinois' 8th district, north of Chicago, proposed a bill that expresses U.S. support for a unilateral Israeli annexation of the West Bank in response to the unilateral Palestinian statehood bid. According to Walsh, 40 members of Congress are expected to sign the bill and push it through the ratification process.

Recently, both the Senate and the House of Representatives moved to suspend $200 million in U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority that had been appropriated for fiscal year 2011. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was among those who introduced the measure. Kay Granger (R-TX), chairwoman of the House subcommittee that oversees foreign aid, ordered the hold in August “until the issue of statehood is resolved” at the U.N., her spokesman, Matt Leffingwell, said. The Obama administration is lobbying Congress to unblock the $200 million in aid. State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the administration was in “intensive” discussions with the lawmakers who had put a hold on the money, saying this was a financial lifeline for the Palestinian government-in-waiting.

The seven congressmen’s visit to Israel will be unprecedented in its scope. Their itinerary includes attendance at discussions in the Knesset, various meetings and tours throughout the country, including a helicopter flight over Judea and Samaria.

Danon said he intended to show the visiting congressmen “the complexity of Israel's political situation, with a focus on Judea and Samaria.. Each visitor who has been invited to Israel has returned to their country as an ambassador for Israel. The seven congressmen will understand why Israel insists on maintaining a presence in Judea and Samaria, and is not interested in seeing that area turned into the next terrorist base, bringing terrorism so close to Jerusalem, Netanya and Ben-Gurion International Airport. The influence this trip will have on the U.S. public and on decisions made in Congress will be tremendous.”