WASHINGTON (Apr. 8)
Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole (R-Kan.), who earlier this year proposed cutting U.S. aid to Israel, left Saturday for a trip to the Middle East that includes stops in Israel and three Arab countries.
The delegation was to arrive in Syria on Sunday, Egypt on Monday and Jordan on Wednesday. The group will reach Israel on Thursday, where it will stay through April 15.
The delegation will meet with heads of state or government of all of those countries, as well as with Israeli Labor Party leader Shimon Peres and “moderate” Palestinian leaders in Israel and the territories.
Dole earlier this year proposed a 5 percent cut in U.S. aid to Israel and other top foreign aid recipients in order to use the money to help emerging democracies in Eastern Europe and Central America.
But if Israel bears any malice toward the Republican leader, it was not evident in comments made by Ruth Yaron, the spokeswoman at the Israeli Embassy here.
“We are happy that both he and his wife agreed to go,” said Yaron. Dole’s wife, Elizabeth, is secretary of labor.
Yaron said she expected Dole’s dialogue with Israeli leaders to be “frank and candid.”
“There is nothing better than to go to Israel and to make impressions first-hand,” she said.
Accompanying Dole are Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), James McClure (R-Idaho), Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.).
Since Passover occurs while Metzenbaum will be in Egypt, he is planning to attend a seder hosted by Shimon Shamir, the Israeli ambassador in Cairo.