Netanyahu meets with visiting delegation of US Democratic lawmakers
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Netanyahu meets with visiting delegation of US Democratic lawmakers

Visit comes amid tensions among Democrats over Israel support and plans by Rashida Tlaib to lead alternative West Bank trip

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with 41 Democratic Members of the US House of Representatives led by US Rep. Steny Hoyer on August 7, 2019 in Jerusalem (Kobi Gideon/ GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with 41 Democratic Members of the US House of Representatives led by US Rep. Steny Hoyer on August 7, 2019 in Jerusalem (Kobi Gideon/ GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Wednesday with a visiting group of 41 Democratic members of the US House of Representatives, telling them Israel was forging an increasingly strong position in the global community.

Netanyahu’s meeting with the Democratic lawmakers comes at a time of tensions in the Democratic ranks over Israel and a growing perception that the party is becoming more critical of the Jewish state.

It was not clear if Netanyahu addressed these tensions in his meeting with them in Jerusalem.

A short excerpt of his remarks released by his office only touched on Israel’s foreign relations.

“There’s something that I want to put forward to you for a brief moment so that you can understand the broader story of Israel which is not understood and seldom told,” Netanyahu said. “There is an exceptional revolution taking place in Israel’s position in the world. And secondly, is Israel’s place in the revolution that is happening in the world. We are living in revolutionary times.”

“We’re forging new agreements, 300 agreements in three years. Given that we have a lot of holidays here, that’s about one agreement every two days. Something very very big is happening here,” Netanyahu said.

The US lawmakers arrived in Israel on Tuesday as part of a trip organized by the American Israel Education Foundation, a group connected to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a Washington-based, non-governmental organization that works to strengthen ties between the US and Israel. The meeting with Netanyahu was also attended by Foreign Minister Israel Katz and AIPAC President Mort Fridman.

The delegation was led by Steny Hoyer, the Democratic House majority leader who is known for his close ties to the pro-Israel community. The tour is larger than usual.

“I am pleased to join so many House Democrats in traveling to Israel to reaffirm our support for a critical US ally and to continue learning about the opportunities and the challenges facing Israel and the Middle East,” Hoyer, D-Md., said ahead of the visit.

The group was also hosted in Ramallah by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who told them that the PA would not accept US government dictates, and blamed Israel for “destroying” agreements with the Palestinians.

The tours, which take place in non-election years, attracted 37 Democrats in 2013 and 21 in 2015. They are sponsored by the American Israel Educational Foundation, an affiliate of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Hoyer did not say in his statement how many of the 41 are freshmen, the primary target for these tours.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., will lead a separate tour for Republicans.

The tensions among Democrats have been over the influence of two progressive congresswomen who back the boycott Israel movement, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. Tlaib has said she will lead a separate West Bank tour, but has yet to announce dates or who will join her, although Omar is slated to attend.

A meeting was also scheduled with opposition leader Benny Gantz. There will also be a tour of sites deploying the congressionally funded Iron Dome short-range anti-missile system.

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