WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is leading a three-nation security tour of Congressional Democrats that includes Israel.
The 14 Democrats on the tour of Israel, Germany and the United Kingdom, which departed Washington on Monday, include chairmen and members of key security-related committees and subcommittees, including the Intelligence Committee, the Armed Services Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee. Jewish members along for the ride include Reps. Adam Schiff of California, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Ted Deutch of Florida, the chairman of the Middle East subcommittee.
“As threats to democracy grow more alarming and urgent, American leadership remains committed to advancing security and stability, economic prosperity and democratic governance around the world,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement released Tuesday after the tour landed in Israel.
“Our first stop will be in Israel, recognizing our shared democratic values and mutual security. We will meet with the leadership of Israel and leaders in the civic community to discuss the prospects for a two-state solution and regional security. ”
Of the 14, only eight will visit Israel; others are skipping other countries, a typical feature of overseas congressional tours where members are often constrained by busy schedules.
Most Democrats see maintaining the viability of the two-state solution as key to preserving hopes for a peaceful outcome in the region, even as a contingent of progressive Democrats in Congress have become increasingly critical of Israel — and of party leadership for continuing to engage in outreach with its government.
Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota, the chairwoman of the influential defense appropriations subcommittee who has authored legislation that would add stricter oversights to defense assistance to Israel, is participating only in the German leg of the trip.
Rep. Ro Khanna of California, a leader of the party’s progressive caucus who identifies as a pro-Israel progressive, is on the trip as well, including its Israel leg.
Pelosi’s emphasis on opposing anti-democratic trends could get a friendly hearing in the Naftali Bennett government, where Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has made countering the rise of right-wing autocracy in other countries a plank of the government’s policies — in contrast with the former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, whom U.S. Democrats believed was cultivating autocrats.
However, the Bennett administration has been slow to respond to right-wing influence on the homefront, and recently abandoned plans to institute an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall over concerns of violent right-wing backlash. PJC