Netanyahu with Majority Leader Eric Cantor 311.
(photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
If it’s August in Israel on an odd numerical year (2013), that can only mean one thing: The congressmen are coming.
And, indeed, on Sunday a group of 36 US Democratic congressmen are expected to arrive on a one-week tour.
They will be followed a week later by a group of 26 Republican representatives.
All told, some 62 congressmen – or about 15 percent of the 435-member US House of Representatives – will visit the country over the next two weeks.
The weeklong trips are sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, a charitable organization affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. For years, AIEF has brought groups of congressmen to Israel during Congress’s summer recess in August in non-election years.
The vast majority of those in the groups are freshman congressmen. Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) will head the Democratic delegation, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) will lead the Republican group.
Because the number of freshmen voted into Congress in 2012 (67) was smaller than the freshman class of 2010 (93), the number of representatives coming this year is smaller than the 81 who came in 2011.
The groups will meet senior Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and will also be taken to Ramallah for meetings with Palestinian leaders, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The 2011 Republican trip gained some notoriety when it was reported a year later that the FBI investigated a late night swim in Lake Kinneret – after dinner and some drinking in Tiberias – by some of the Republican lawmakers, staffers and their families. One representative, Kevin Yoder from Kansas, dived naked into the Kinneret. Another 20 members of the congressional party also jumped into the water, some fully clothed and others partially disrobed.
The investigation found no wrongdoing.