John Boehner shakes hands with with Eric Cantor .
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
Eighty-one congressmen, or about 20 percent of the US House of Representatives, will visit Israel over the next three weeks during Congress’s summer recess, with the first group of 26 Democrats scheduled to arrive on Monday.
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The Democratic delegation will be followed by two Republican ones, bringing a total of 55 Republicans.
Most of the representatives are freshmen congressmen, with 47 – or fully half of the freshmen Republicans voted into office in 2010 – making the trip.
For many of them, this will be their first trip to Israel.
The week-long trips are sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, a charitable organization affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which brings large delegations of congressmen here every other August.
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) will head the Democratic delegation, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) will lead one of the Republican groups.
Hoyer, in a statement, said he looked forward to “returning to Israel to
continue learning firsthand about the evolving security situation in
the Middle East, the deep challenges facing Israel, and the role the US
can play in the region during this time of uncertainty.
I’m pleased members of Congress have this opportunity to study American
interests in the Middle East and gain a deeper understanding of the
issues involved in increasing stability in the region.”
The delegation will visit both Israel and the West Bank, and is
scheduled to meet with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, and Palestinian Authority President
Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
Among those on the delegation arriving Monday are Illinois Congressman
Jesse Jackson Jr., Ohio’s Betty Sutton, and Pennsylvania’s Mark Critz.
In a related development, The Israel Project will be bringing a group of
18 Washington-based ambassadors from Asia, Europe, Africa and Latin
America to Israel on Monday for a weeklong tour and high-level meetings.
Like the congressmen, they will also go to Ramallah, for a meeting with
PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
Among the countries represented on the trip are Albania, Barbados,
Belize, Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Macedonia, St.
Lucia and Uganda.
Some of these countries have been mentioned by officials in Jerusalem as
likely candidates to either vote against, or at least abstain, when the
vote on Palestinian statehood comes before the UN in September.