House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) are leading a group of 24 House Democrats to Israel this week, along with AIPAC President Michael Tuchin.
The delegation met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, amid a tense political atmosphere in the country around the government’s judicial reform and a terror attack in Tel Aviv over the weekend.
“Israel has no better ally than the United States and the United States has no better ally than Israel,” Netanyahu told House Democrats. “We are the innovation society.”
Netanyahu's opponents have often criticized the prime minister for damaging Israel’s relations with the Democratic party by pushing policies that are better aligned with the Republican side of the aisle. However, many in Israel are also pointing to unrelated trends within the Democrat party for not only harming its support for Israel, but legitimizing anti-Israel or antisemitic rhetoric, as well.
The Israeli premier dedicated much of his conversation with House Democrats to addressing the Iranian nuclear threat, as the Biden administration is reportedly still seeking an informal mini-deal with Tehran.
“The most important thing is to produce a credible military threat to Iran. The other thing is use it,” said Netanyahu. “We don’t want a world in which Iran can threaten New York or Washington or Los Angeles or anything in between with nuclear weapons. Certainly we're not going to have one in which they could annihilate Israel, which they call a one-bomb country. It's an abhorrent statement but it tells you where they are.”
“We will do everything in our power, with or without this or that agreement, to defend ourselves,” he emphasized.
Netanyahu praised the Abraham Accords peace agreements with Arab states which were initially established against a shared threat from Iran, but “exploded” – in his words – thanks to technological and business cooperation.
“It's an economic peace. It already has billions moving in both directions with joint ventures, with tourism and people-to-people, economy-to-economy. And that's an exciting model for peace,” the prime minister stated. “If we have it with Saudi Arabia, which again is what our governments are working on right now, this will be such a quantum leap.”
Netanyahu revealed that while some infrastructure for a Saudi-Israeli peace deal is already in place, further progress is being blocked by “politics."
Democrat members of the congressional delegation are visiting Israel and the West Bank, as well as holding high-level meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders organized by the AIPAC-linked American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF).
The delegation explores a variety of pressing issues in the region, including prospects for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the ongoing judicial reform debate, combating terror, and the development of the Abraham Accords.
This week marks Jeffries' second visit to the Jewish state this year, while Hoyer has made the trip 20 times throughout his political career.
“On my twentieth trip to Israel, I look forward to continuing my work to strengthen our U.S.-Israel relationship and to protect the shared principles of democracy, freedom, and justice that bind our nations together,” said Hoyer.
“Congress has a responsibility to foster further cooperation between America and Israel so that we can overcome grave challenges to international peace and stability. I've been proud to play a leading role in the effort to support Jews in Israel and around the world and to ensure Israel stands as a beacon of democracy for all. That work will continue on this delegation and upon my return.”
“With this trip, House Democrats reaffirm our commitment to the special relationship between the United States and Israel, one anchored in our shared democratic values and mutual geopolitical interests," Jeffries added.
"We will learn ways Congress can continue strengthening this alliance and enable peace and stability between Israel and its neighbors. As we listen and learn, we reiterate our ironclad commitment to the safety and security of Israel and to the existence of Israel as a prosperous and Jewish democratic state.”
Netanyahu thanked the delegation’s leaders and members for standing by the State of Israel and against antisemitism.
"I wanted to thank you for your position on antisemitism, for your position on the mendacious attack on Israel as an apartheid state, for your support for Israel's security and for supporting the President's effort to expand the peace. These are hectic times but they're also full of promise,” the prime minister said.
According to a draft list of attendees viewed by the Jewish Insider, trip participants include: Reps. Pete Aguilar (D-CA), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Haley Stevens (D-MI), Becca Balint (D-VT), Yadira Caraveo (D-CO), Jasmine Crockett (D-TX), Don Davis (D-NC), Chris Deluzio (D-PA), Robert Garcia (D-CA), Dan Goldman (D-NY), Glenn Ivey (D-MD), Greg Landsman (D-OH), Rob Menendez (D-NJ), Jared Moskowitz (D-FL), Wiley Nickel (D-NC), Brittany Pettersen (D-CO), Pat Ryan (D-NY), Andrea Salinas (D-OR), Hillary Scholten (D-MI), Eric Sorensen (D-IL), Emilia Sykes (D-OH), Shri Thanedar (D-MI) and Jill Tokuda (D-HI).
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.