Republicans confirm US's abiding friendship with Israel

"When you’re friends, you stay with your friends," says majority whip.

By
August 17, 2011 15:23
4 minute read.
President Shimon Peres

Shimon Peres 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

 
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If the deafening and sustained applause could be taken as an indicator, President Shimon Peres is even more popular with US Republicans than with Democrats.

While he certainly got a warm reception from the Democratic Congressional delegation that visited him last week, it paled in comparison to the enthusiastic accolade Peres received when he entered the main reception hall at his official residence.

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The Republican delegation, headed by Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, included not only members of Congress, but also freshmen and veteran supporters of the Republican Party.

After McCarthy conveyed birthday greetings to Peres, Wednesday, he told him it was customary in Congress to sing a very short Happy Birthday song, and got the delegation to do in Jerusalem what it does in Washington.

The delighted grin on the president’s face spoke volumes.

McCarthy, who last met with Peres when he was in the US in April, recalled how impressed he had been by the passion with which Peres had delivered his message, and about what he had said about the relationship between Israel and the US, talking about America’s compassion, generosity and willingness to sacrifice so other countries could have freedom and democracy.

He had wanted to write down some of Peres’s quotes, said McCarthy, but he didn’t have any paper so he used the back of his name card. He looked across at House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and noticed he had done exactly the same.

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Just as the Democrats had done the previous week, the Republican members of Congress introduced themselves to Peres, but last time it had been at the suggestion of House of Representatives Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer. This time it was Peres himself who asked that each of the members of Congress introduce themselves.

They did more than that. They also put in what sounded like commercials for their home states.

Congressman Jeff Duncan from South Carolina said “Folks in South Carolina are pleased to stand with Israel.”

In thanking his guests for coming to Israel, Peres said: “For us, it is much more meaningful than you think.”

Just as he had told the Democratic delegation the previous week that he thinks America is as strong as ever, he reiterated this belief to the Republicans explaining “the problems of the entire world hang so heavily on America’s shoulders,” in addition to America’s own problems with the economy.

For all that, the US still has the greatest institutes of learning and democracy, said Peres, who declared “America has kept its place at the head of the world, because its appetite was not to rule, but to advance.”

Peres who is greatly preoccupied with brain research “because the best computers in the world are our brains,” was very pleased at the level and volume of brain research being conducted in the US, and predicted that in 10 years America would be in the global forefront in this field.

“We are so lucky to have a friendship such as yours,” Peres said, referring amongst other things to the staunch support the US has given Israel for its security needs, in particular the Iron Dome anti-rocket battery.

McCarthy’s response was that America stands by its friends.

With the September meeting of the UN looming ever closer, Peres placed particular emphasis on the importance of the immediate resumption of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians because there is no alternative to the two-state solution, and those states must coexist in peace.

He also warned of the inherent dangers in allowing Iran to continue with its nuclear program. This is something that affects the whole world, he said.

Across the road from the President’s Residence, was yet another demonstration demanding the freedom of Jonathan Pollard, who is serving a lifetime sentence for spying on behalf of Israel.

When asked about Pollard, McCarthy, like Hoyer last week, said it was a judicial matter.

When asked why these delegations keep coming to Israel, he said he thinks the relationship is very important, and for freshman even more so, because it gives them the opportunity to learn about Middle East issues on the ground.

A television reporter was concerned if the Palestinians get their way at the UN, could this mean a change in US Foreign Policy with regard to Israel? McCarthy was reassuring.

“When you’re friends, you stay with your friends. The UN has not solved the problem he said.

“Those who want to see peace ought to get together and try to achieve it themselves.”

While McCarthy was reluctant to discuss Pollard, fellow Congressman, Michael Grimm of New York City had no such qualms. Grimm a former Marine and FBI agent has visited Pollard and is a keen advocate for his release. Many of Grimm’s constituents are Jewish, and some had prevailed upon him to campaign for Pollard, but he said he could not do so unless he met the man and formed his own opinion about him.

He had even been taken aback by Pollard’s forthright acknowledgement that he’d done something wrong. Grimm made it clear his advocacy on Pollard’s behalf has nothing to do with politics, but with justice. He believes in fair justice, fair punishment and fair treatment for all, and Pollard should be treated in the same manner as anyone else who has committed a similar crime.

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