Trip Occurs Just Prior to Disengagement, Critical Time for Israel
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) will lead 14 Democratic Members of Congress on a trip to Israel next week. The trip (August 7 - 14) occurs at a critical time for Israel, just prior to the implementation of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan on Monday, August 15th.
"Disengagement is a critical time for Israel, her security, the future of the Middle East peace process, and the region's security," said Hoyer today. "The timing of this trip will enable Members to learn more not only generally about U.S.-Israel relations, Israel's security situation, and the Palestinian people and government, but specifically how the disengagement process is progressing and what role is appropriate and helpful for the U.S. to play.
"The Members of Congress on this trip will better assess all of these issues at the end of their visit, which will help craft informed diplomatic, political and financial policies moving forward. This will be an important, informative and eye-opening experience for all of those participating," continued Hoyer.
"The size and diversity of this group is evidence of the importance that the Democratic Party attaches to the US-Israel strategic partnership, which is our long-standing position. It is also a testament to the priority Democrats place on our strong and traditional ties to the American Jewish Community and our focus on the issues that are important to them," added Hoyer.
This rigorous trip includes high-level meetings with a wide variety of leaders, including Israeli, Palestinian, secular and religious leaders, as well as experts in the peace process and U.S.-Israeli defense cooperation. Members will also learn about anti-terrorism techniques that may be helpful in combating terrorists in the U.S.
The Members will meet with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Palestinian Authority Finance Minister Salam Fayad, Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres, and other top government officials. They will visit the Golan Heights, Israel's border with Lebanon, strategic overlooks in the West Bank, Massada National Park, the Dead Sea, Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, and Mevasseret Immigrant Absorption Center, among other security and cultural sites.
The group of House Democrats traveling to Israel with Congressman Hoyer is diverse, including two House leaders (Hoyer and House Democratic Caucus Chair Menendez), five freshman Members, ten non-Jewish members, and Representatives from every area of the country.
The American Israel Education Foundation is sponsoring the trip and is a supporting foundation of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). AIEF sponsors, among other things, education programs such as trips to Israel for community leaders and elected officials, seminars on Middle East issues at universities across the country, and other projects that help to educate the general public about U.S.-Israel relations.