Freshmen Congress members visiting Israel ahead of Iran vote


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Freshmen Congress members will tour Israel with their party leaders and meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Congress gears up to consider an Iran nuclear deal that Netanyahu vehemently opposes.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the U.S. House of Representatives minority whip, will lead 21 House Democrats on a tour of Israel Aug. 4-10, his office said Monday in a statement.

“This trip gives members of Congress an important opportunity to see the region first-hand and to meet with key Israeli and Palestinian leaders, which will give them a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities in the Middle East today, along with American interests in the region,” Hoyer said in the statement.

His delegation also will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the House majority leader, will lead about 20 GOP freshmen on a similar trip next week, The Hill reported. McCarthy’s office did not respond to a query for comment.

Freshmen trips, sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, an affiliate of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, routinely take place in non-election years during the August recess.

This year, the meetings come ahead of a vote by Congress in mid- to late September over whether to disapprove of the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached July 14 between Iran and six world powers.

Netanyahu wants Congress to kill the deal, while President Barack Obama has vowed to veto any legislation that would reject it.

Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., who introduced the motion to disapprove the deal, on Monday was said he was confident the bill would be defeated, having garnered 218 co-sponsors for his bill in the 435-member House.

“The more time members spend evaluating this agreement, the more they realize it’s an historic mistake,” he said in a statement.

The Obama administration believes it can keep bill opponents from mustering the two-thirds majorities needed in the House and Senate to override Obama’s promised veto.

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