US Speaker of the House Paul Ryan .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Visiting US Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) said Monday he chose Israel as the destination of his first trip abroad in his powerful new role “to show how important our ties and our alliance with Israel is.” Ryan, in an interview from Jerusalem with the Hugh Hewitt radio show in the US, said: “In this dangerous, chaotic part of the world, with terrorism all over the world, Israel is one of our most important allies.”
Ryan’s comments came after he, and the senior bipartisan congressional delegation he is leading, met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Ryan has been speaker of the house for just over four months.
While in the past the Prime Minister’s Office often provided readouts of the premier’s meetings with US lawmakers, in recent months it has stopped doing so in what may be an attempt not to be seen as taking sides in the US election.
“I’m here to show our support. I’m here to talk with our allies and to see how we can better cooperate to win this war against radical Islamic terrorism,” Ryan said, pointedly using a phrase – radical Islamic terrorism – avoided by US President Barack Obama.
Ryan said the conversation with Netanyahu dealt with UN resolutions “and any problems they propose,” an obvious reference to the concern some in Jerusalem have that in the waning days of the Obama tenure the president may either not veto a French resolution on the Middle East in the UN Security Council, or present his own resolution setting the parameters for a future deal.
Ryan added that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, as well as the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, also were discussed in the meeting with Netanyahu.
“Europe has been engaging in this ridiculous and counterproductive BDS shenanigan,” he said. “We in the Congress have been very forceful about that. By the way, when you try to boycott, divest and sanction Israel, you’re hurting Palestinians, as well.”
In addition to meeting Netanyahu, Ryan and his delegation also visited the Knesset and met with Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
In the meeting with Edelstein, Ryan said the alliance between Israel and the US is “more important now than ever before” in light of “very difficult times, the rise of ISIS, terrorism, [the] Syrian civil war, Iran.
“We see you as our friends, our allies, our partners. You’re an island of freedom in a very difficult, chaotic region, and that is why our partnership is all the more important,” he added.
Ryan said it is important for Israel and the US to renew and extend its bilateral security agreement, mentioning missile-defense programs like David’s Sling and the Arrow.
Following his meeting with Netanyahu, Ryan and the delegation visited an Iron Dome battery.
Ryan reiterated to Edelstein that Congress would actively combat boycott efforts against Israel.
“That’s something we take pride in, advancing the kind of [anti-boycott] legislation we’ve already advanced this year in the House, and we pledge to stand shoulder to shoulder with you. That’s why we’re here,” Ryan stated.
Edelstein told Ryan that Israel knows “we have true friends in the US, in Congress and the White House.
“In our neighborhood, I think it’s not just a question of having another good friend, but also a question of Israel’s security,” he said, adding that continued American aid to Israel is “the guarantor of our existence” in the region.
The other members of the delegation include Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee; Devin Nunes (R-California), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; Mike Turner (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces; Gregory Meeks (D-New York); Ron Kind (D-Wisconsin); Kristi Noem (R-South Dakota); and Will Hurd (R-Texas).