Lobby's Free Trips to Israel Could End
- TRAVEL SPONSORED BY LOBBIES UNDER ATTACK
Congressional Trips to Israel Sponsored by AIPAC Should be Made Illegal
January 13, 2006
House Republicans, according to the January 11, 2006 New York Times,
are considering a lobbying proposal that would ban all travel paid for
by lobby organizations. The proposal is being drawn up by David Dreier
(R-CA), chairman of the Rules Committee, and has been endorsed by
Dennis Hastert, the Speaker. They are now approaching Steny Hoyer
(D-MD), the Democratic Minority Whip, for his support.
If the proposal succeeds, Hoyer's almost annual trips to Israel could
come to an end, since the cost of such trips would have to come out of
the Congressional budget. During the recent congressional break
(December 2005-January 2006), AIPAC "Update" reported that the
American Israel Educational Foundation, "a supporting organization of
AIPAC," took Reps. Judy Biggert (R-IL), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Ginny
Brown-Waite (R-FL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) on
a trip to Israel. Update commented, "American lawmakers routinely
travel to Israel, saying that trips to the Jewish state give them an
in-depth perspective of the security challenges it faces."
Usually the group meets with the prime minister and a high official in
the Israel Defense Ministry. The December/January group called at
Hadassah Hospital to wish Ariel Sharon well from his massive stroke.
In November-December 2005, AIEF sponsored another group of lawmakers,
including Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Thomas Carper (D-DE), Rep Ellen
Tauscher (D-CA). During the August recess, they took out 16
Republicans and 14 Democrats on separate trips. The Republican group
was led by Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO), who is now running for Tom
Delay's position, and Deputy Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA), and the
Democratic group was led by Steny Hoyer and Democratic Caucus Chairman
Robert Menendez (now the new senator from New Jersey, filling the
place of Jon Corzine, who was elected governor). This was Menendez's
second expense-paid trip, having been a member of the Democratic group
that went to Israel in August.
Both Steny and Blunt outdo themselves in their support for Israel. As
Ron Kampeas pointed out in a recent article in the JTA, "Working with
Rep Steny Hoyer .Blunt has initiated pro-Israel resolutions that are
guaranteed overwhelming passage, and he leads a trip to Israel every
two years for Republican freshmen."
The August Republican group, led by Blunt and Cantor, included Rob
Bishop (UT), Henry Bonilla (TX), Jo Bonner (AL), John Carter (TX),
Thelma Drake (VA), John Doolittle (CA), newcomer Virginia Foxx (NC),
newcomer Bobby Jindal (LA), newcomer Randy Kuhl (NY), Dan Lungren
(CA), Kenny Marchant (TX), Tom Price (GA), Deborah Pryce (OH), and
Paul Ryan (WI). Ilena Ros Lehtinen, who also manages to get to Israel
once or twice a year, admitted in an article published on the
Republican Jewish Coalition website, that she would "go to mat on
Israel issues." Indeed, she regularly does. Two years ago she became
head of the Middle East Subcommittee of the House International
Relations Committee, which spearheads many pro-Israel resolutions.
The August Democratic group included, in addition to Menendez and
Hoyer, John Barrow ((D-GA), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Russ Carnahan
(D-MO), Jim Costa (D-CA), Steve Israel (D-NY), James Langevin (D-RI),
Michael Michaud (D-ME), Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), John Salazar
(D-CO), Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), Henry Waxman (D-CA), and Lynn Woolsey.
According to the group's published agenda, the representatives called
on Ariel Sharon, Simon Peres, "and other top government officials,
visit[ed] 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." On the Palestinian side,
only an appointment with Palestinian Authority, the Finance Minister
Salam Fayad was announced.
The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported at in 2005 some 103
members of Congress visited Israel and that Congress took 15
resolutions for the benefit of Israel.
The rigid pro-Israel bent of Congress is too much for even President
Bush, who's embrace of the Ariel Sharon's unilateral policies have
been a mark of his administrations. David Dumke, who has followed
congressional attitudes toward the Middle East for many years,
believes the differences have complicated Bush's Middle East positions.
The overreaching of lobby groups such as AIPAC and the power it exerts
on US foreign policy prompts a need for regulation and transparency.
The Council for the National Interest is promoting a Foreign Lobby
Registration Act, and those interested in signing the act may read it
on CNI's website.
To make a tax-deductible contribution to the Council for the National
Interest Foundation click here:
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