TEL AVIV – A delegation of some 41 House Democrats led by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer flew to Israel Monday, defying efforts by radical left-wing groups to persuade the lawmakers to nix the AIPAC-linked trip.
The week-long tour of Israel and the disputed territories was organized by the American Israel Education Foundation, an NGO affiliated with AIPAC.
“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 said in a statement. “Seeing the region firsthand and meeting with key Israeli and Palestinian leaders gives Members insights into a region that is vital both to our own national interests and to global security.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy will lead a similar trip for Republicans beginning on Friday.
The Democratic House members will meet with both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main election rival, Blue and White party chairman Benny Gantz. The delegation will also meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The so-called Squad, led by freshman congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, refused to join the trip, a fact used by far-left groups including IfNotNow and Code Pink in a hard-hitting campaign to convince other Democrats to follow suit.
Code Pink posted an online petition under the hashtag #SkiptheTrip, and claimed on Twitter that “AIPAC junket trips whitewash Israeli apartheid, occupation, & war crimes.”
AIPAC junket trips whitewash Israeli apartheid, occupation, & war crimes. Please join me in thanking @AOC, @RashidaTlaib @IlhanMN, @AyannaPressley @RepDebHaaland @RepKatieHill & others who are choosing to #SkipTheTrip https://t.co/kHTAnesqSx
— CODEPINK (@codepink) August 1, 2019
Code Pink described Tlaib, Omar, and Ocasio-Cortez’s decision not to join the trip as “historic.”
“The fewer Congress members that travel with AIPAC, the better odds for peace in Israel/Palestine and for avoiding a war with Iran,” the group said.
According to Hoyer’s statement, the group “will also meet with young Palestinian entrepreneurs, Israeli civil society leaders, and peace activists. During the trip, members will visit Israel’s borders with Lebanon and Syria and see an Iron Dome battery. The delegation will also visit important historical and cultural sites, including the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.”