US House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland speaks during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Democratic Party remains “overwhelmingly” supportive of Israel, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) said on Tuesday, amid signs that the party that has traditionally been pro-Israel is shifting because of pressure from the Bernie Sanders, progressive wing of the party.
Hoyer, among 52 US congressmen from both parties in Israel on a trip sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, an independent foundation affiliated with AIPAC, said that there was “no residual” impact on Democratic support for Netanyahu following his speech to Congress in 2015 that was opposed to and even boycotted by a number of Democrats.
Israel-US ties, Hoyer said, are not about one prime minister or another, or one president or another. “This is about a consensus that Israel’s security is critical to the security of the United States of America.”
Asked if certain recent votes in Congress on Israel-related issues did not show a slippage of Democratic support, Hoyer pointed instead to the passage last month of a bill strengthening sanctions against Iran.
“Iran sanctions were expanded significantly by the Congress of the United States, and there were only three votes against it – none of them were Democrats,” said Hoyer, who was speaking at the press conference alongside the House majority leader, Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy from California.
Hoyer said the fact that he was speaking together with McCarthy, and that the delegation included 19 Democrats and 33 Republicans, “shows that we are speaking with one voice on behalf of the security of Israel.”
Acknowledging that there are some “differences of opinion,” Hoyer said, however, that “when you have votes about Israel’s security and safety, they are overwhelmingly bipartisan; overwhelmingly.”
The Democratic delegation arrived a week ago and will be leaving on Wednesday, while the Republicans arrived on Monday and will be leaving next week.
The Democrats met on Monday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Republicans are scheduled to do so in the coming days. Both groups also have, or will, meet with Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah.
McCarthy said that he and Hoyer felt that it was important for the two delegations to overlap in Israel for a couple of days in order to send a strong signal of bipartisan support and commitment to Israel’s “security, safety and sovereignty.
“I don’t think any other country has this large a bipartisan delegation,” McCarthy said, with 12% of the 435 members of Congress standing behind him, most of them freshman representatives. “I think this is an example of the respect for our relationship with Israel.”
McCarthy, on his fifth visit to Israel, said the US and Israel have shared values, shared security interests throughout the world, and shared enemies. “There is no stronger bond between [the US and] any ally we have,” he said.
Hoyer said the members of the delegations were not in Israel as Democrats or Republicans, but “as Americans who support Israel’s’ security, sovereignty and the safety of its people. We are here because the US and Israel are partners for peace and partners for security.”
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