A group of lawmakers from 14 countries visited the northern West Bank on Sunday in a show of solidarity with Israel, as the head of the settlement movement praised US President Donald Trump.
The 26 parliament members, who hailed from countries including US, Australia, South Africa, Guatemala and several in Europe, were addressed by Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely and settler leader Yossi Dagan at a spot overlooking the Palestinian city of Nablus.
Dagan praised the Trump administration’s position on Israel, but said its policies have yet to be implemented on the ground.
“We are very happy with the Trump government in the USA,” he told the visiting delegation of Israel Allies Foundation.
“It is a very big change after the hateful years of Obama. But this change has still not begun,” he said. “I believe that there is still a lot of work to be done.”
Obama’s White House repeatedly condemned West Bank settlement construction, and in December 2016, at the end of his presidency, his administration chose not to veto a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate halt to all Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, enabling the measure to pass.
The lawmakers were in the country for the annual Israel Allies Foundation conference, which is co-sponsored by the World Jewish Congress and has for years brought Christian and Jewish pro-Israeli lawmakers from various countries to the Holy Land during Sukkot, the festival during which, according to Jewish tradition, the nations of the world ascend to Jerusalem.
Alan Clemmons, a Republican member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, told the other lawmakers that the Israel boycott movement is “financial terrorism.”
“Israel is the occupier of no one’s land other than the land that God promised to the people of Israel,” he said.
Australian MP Stuart Robert told The Times of Israel that touring the West Bank was about “getting a feel for how communities are living and working together.”
Asked if his presence in the West Bank was a political statement, he said, “The Australian government supports two states. I’m here as a very senior member of government.” He added that the future of the West Bank should be “left to negotiations between the parties.”
Earlier in the day, the lawmakers visited Rachel’s Tomb adjacent to Bethlehem.
Some of the foreign dignitaries had participated in a tour of Hebron a year ago, but this was the first time the group had been to the outskirts of Nablus.
Founded by Benny Elon, the late West Bank settler leader and former cabinet minister, the Israel Allies Foundation is a group of pro-Israel lawmakers from around the world.
According to the nonprofit International Christian Embassy, the annual Feast of Tabernacles draws some 3,000 visitors from across the globe.
The foundation, which has offices in Washington, Brussels and Jerusalem, is an outgrowth of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, created in 2004 by Knesset members from across the political spectrum.
In 2006, the US House of Representatives formed the Congressional Israel Allies Caucus, which has since been followed by pro-Israel parliamentary groups in countries such as Uruguay, South Africa, Finland, Japan, South Korea, Malawi and others.