If the deafening and sustained applause could be taken as an indicator,
President Shimon Peres is even more popular with US Republicans than with
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.
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
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.
Duncan from South Carolina said “Folks in South Carolina are pleased to stand
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
“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
McCarthy’s response was that America stands by its
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
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
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
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.”
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
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