Dozens of members of the US House of Representatives are visiting Israel this week and meeting with local officials on a trip organized by the AIPAC-affiliated American Israel Education Foundation.
A Republican delegation led by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy — consisting of 27 lawmakers from the party — met Monday with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Bennett discussed the ongoing nuclear talks in Vienna with the delegation, and thanked the members of Congress “for their strong support of Israel.” He also emphasized the importance of Israel’s government maintaining dialogue with “both sides of the political map in the US.”
The GOP members of Congress also met on Monday with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in Ramallah.
According to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa, Shtayyeh told the delegation that Israel “does not want a two-state solution or a one-state solution, all it wants is the continuation of the fait accompli, which is a deteriorating reality that will lead to an explosion of the situation.”
In the meeting, Shtayyeh also called on the US administration to reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem serving Palestinians, and claimed that the “real enemy of peace is settlements.”
Whenever I meet with members of Congress – Democrats and Republicans – I know I’m among true friends of Israel and strong supporters of the enduring alliance between our two democracies. ???????? ???????? pic.twitter.com/03CVcobCW5
— יאיר לפיד – Yair Lapid???? (@yairlapid) February 21, 2022
Republican freshman lawmakers Peter Meijer of Michigan, Young Kim of California, Burgess Owens of Utah and Tony Gonzales of Texas were among those in the delegation.
Meanwhile, a group of 14 Democratic lawmakers met on Monday with Defense Minister Benny Gantz. According to Gantz, they discussed the “strategic and operational challenges that Israel must be prepared to face, including Iranian aggression and Hezbollah and Hamas on our borders.”
Gantz also said that they “reiterated the strategic, bipartisan bond that Israel and the US share.”
Both delegations met with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who said he told both groups that “we in Israel are committed to working with all of our friends in Congress to strengthen the friendship and strategic partnership between our two nations in order to both meet shared challenges and take advantage of shared opportunities.”
The Democratic delegation included Representatives Ted Deutch and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, Hakeem Jeffries of New York, and freshman lawmakers Ritchie Torres of New York and Kathy Manning — a former chairwoman of the Jewish Federations of North American — of North Carolina.
Last week, US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visited Israel with a delegation of several other Democratic members of the House, and met with Bennett, as well as President Isaac Herzog and other officials.
Jacob Magid contributed to this report.