U.S. Rep. Chris Deluzio (D-PA) said he saw firsthand the strength of the relationship between Israel and the United States during a seven-day trip to the Jewish state.
Deluzio, who represents most of the northwestern suburbs of Pittsburgh, joined 23 other members of Congress earlier this month for what he called a “substantive” trek to Israel.
The journey, he said, was centered in Jerusalem but included the breadth of the region and incorporated the Sea of Galilee and Golan Heights, among other stops.
“We received briefings and had meetings across the political spectrum, Israeli and Palestinian alike,” he said, “really diving into the issues that are being debated around the heart of democracy in Israel and what its future looks like as a Jewish and democratic state, and, frankly, the road — however rocky — to lasting security and peace of two states, side by side.”
The delegation, led by House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, opposition leader Yair Lapid and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.
“We were taking pretty serious meetings at a high level to hear the perspective of, I think, every part of leadership in the region, as best we could,” Deluzio said.
The trip gave the congressman a greater appreciation of the importance and strength of the relationship between Israel and the United States, he said, noting that it highlighted U.S. interests in the region, especially in terms of security.
To that end, Deluzio said the delegation toured an Iron Dome battery site, “which is protecting folks across Israel from attack. It’s a defensive system, but I think it’s an important one for security reasons.”
In 2021 the House approved $1 billion for the system. At the time, the measure passed 420 to 9, with eight Democrats and one Republican voting no.
DeLuzio said that he will vote to fund the Iron Dome system if it comes up during his time in Congress.
“It’s an important system that protects people,” he said. “It’s defensive and proven very effective to mitigate and prevent attacks. So, it’s a key part of our relationship and our security assistance.”
This was the second time Deluzio visited Israel. He previously traveled there for personal reasons.
He said the country is experiencing a profound debate about democracy and the role of the courts, which is reflected in the population’s level of engagement and the breadth of the ongoing demonstrations. He hopes that Israel remains a strong, Jewish and democratic state.
“It’s important for our relationship in the Middle East,” he said.
Just as important, Deluzio said, are the ongoing efforts to negotiate additional Abraham Accords. He would like to see Saudi Arabia added to the agreements but acknowledged that is far from a certainty.
“I think it speaks to the potential for broader regional peace and normalization among Arab states of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish homeland,” he said. “I can’t overstate how important that is.”
Deluzio said that for there to be an ultimate sense of Israeli and Palestinian safety there has to be a two-state solution, but the path forward is not easy.
“If I said I have the answer you shouldn’t believe me,” Deluzio said. “No one knows. I think we know in broad strokes what needs to happen. I heard discussions of borders and land swaps and settlements and so much more that we all know about. I have some hope and I’m optimistic we can find a path to peace that has dignity and respect and sovereignty for the Palestinian people and, of course, for Israel to remain a Jewish democratic homeland.”
The trip was organized by the American Israel Education Foundation, a charitable organization affiliated with AIPAC.
Deluzio, who sits on the Armed Services Committee, said that he was glad he had the opportunity to take the trip.
“In my duty in Congress, we dive very deeply and care very deeply about our foreign policy, our defense posture, our security arrangements and agreements with our friends and allies,” he said. “This is an important part of my job to see things on the ground and understand circumstances in Israel and across the Middle East.” PJC
David Rullo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.