(JNS) — Two dozen Democrats from the U.S. House of Representative — led by House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) — are in Israel for a six-day trip that started earlier this week, sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, a charitable organization affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
The Democratic Congress members “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 stated ahead of the trip, which is his 20th to the Jewish state.
“The delegation will explore a variety of pressing issues, including the effort to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear capable, prospects for a two-state solution, the ongoing judicial reform debate, combating terror and the development of the Abraham Accords,” according to the release.
Rep. Glenn Ivey (D-Md.) was also part of the delegation but could not join as a result of his mother’s death this past weekend, Robin Peguero, the congressman’s chief of staff, told JNS.
The other participants, all Democrats, are Reps. Pete Aguilar and Robert Garcia (Calif.); Don Davis and Wiley Nickel (N.C.); Greg Landsman and Emilia Sykes (Ohio); Dan Goldman and Pat Ryan (N.Y.); Brad Schneider and Eric Sorensen (Ill.); Yadira Caraveo and Brittany Pettersen (Colo.); Becca Balint (Vt.); Jasmine Crockett (Texas); Chris Deluzio (Pa.); Andrea Salinas (Ore.); Jill Tokuda (Hawaii); Rob Menendez (N.J.); Jared Moskowitz (Fla.); and three Michigan representatives, Hillary Scholten, Haley Stevens and Shri Thanedar.
A self-funded Indian-born multimillionaire who defeated the AIPAC-backed State Sen. Adam Hollier in 2022, Thanedar told JNS that he is “humbled and excited to be in Israel.” He also referred to its “immense historical, cultural and strategic significance.”
“This visit offers a valuable opportunity to strengthen ties between our nations and explore avenues for collaboration in areas such as technology, innovation and defense,” Thanedar told JNS. “Meeting and getting the perspectives from the prime ministers of Israel and Palestine is crucial in understanding their positions and concerns.”
JNS sought clarification from the congressman about whether he thinks the United States should or does recognize “Palestine” as a distinct country with a prime minister.
The congressman did not respond directly but told JNS that “The ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians can only be resolved through a two-state solution, where both sides work together with international support.”
“The United States should take a leading role in achieving this peace, ensuring Israel’s continuation as a Jewish democracy with secure borders, while also recognizing the rights of Palestinians,” Thanedar added. “Both sides must act in good faith: Israel must acknowledge the rights of Palestinians, and Palestinian leaders must denounce violence from groups like Hamas and recognize Israel’s right to exist.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the delegation to his Jerusalem office on Monday. “The most important thing is to create a credible military threat to Iran, and the second thing is to exploit it if all else fails,” he said.
Marshall Wittmann, an AIPAC spokesman, told JNS that the trip demonstrates “America’s steadfast solidarity with the Jewish state.”
The visit provides “participants with an in-depth understanding of a region that is critical to U.S. security interests,” he said. He added that members of Congress on both sides of the aisle “visit the Jewish state because they appreciate the value of exploring first-hand the issues concerning the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
Stevens, one of the Michigan representatives on the trip, told JNS that she was glad to participate in this trip — her second visit to Israel since being elected in 2019.
“The United States and Israel share a unique bond focused on security and economic interests,” she told JNS.