“All of us believe that Bashar Assad’s departure is inevitable, but we don’t
know how long it will take. Some of us would like to see the United
States more engaged in that effort,” Sen. John McCain said in Jerusalem
on Saturday night.
McCain, who was the Republican presidential nominee in
the 2008 US election, is leading a bipartisan delegation on a tour of the
region. They met with President Shimon Peres at his official residence after
having visited Egypt, Afghanistan and Jordan.
McCain said that the
delegation had visited a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan on Saturday morning and
had seen thousands and thousands of people who had fled the brutal Assad regime.
Some of the refugees were seriously injured.
In welcoming the delegation,
Peres said that the visit was a declaration to the rest of the region that
America remains engaged in the great march for freedom, democracy and
There are currently two critical issues in the region, said Peres.
One is Iran and the other is Syria. Israel appreciates the American position on
Iran, namely not to allow it to become a nuclear power, he said.
situation in Syria, he said, “is causing us a great deal of
Peres has been pained by television images of the wholesale
slaughter of Syrian children and has mentioned this on several occasions when
speaking to foreign dignitaries.
He also referred to elections which have
taken place in various countries in the Middle East, and said that while they
served to put problems on the table, they did not furnish solutions.
came at a demanding and meaningful time,” he told McCain.
Both Peres and
McCain spoke of Israel as an island of democracy.
were: Sen. Kelly Ayotte (RNew Hampshire), Sen. Richard Blumenthal
(DConnecticut), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), Sen. Chris Coons
(D-Delaware), Christian Brose, a senior adviser on the Senate Armed Services
Committee, and US Ambassador Dan Shapiro.
McCain was in the forefront of
the successful effort to block the nomination of Susan Rice, the US ambassador
to the United Nations, to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of
At the meeting with Peres, the delegation discussed the latest
developments related to the Iranian threat, major challenges confronting Israel
today, specifically with regard to neighboring countries, and the strengthening
of bilateral strategic ties between Israel and the US.