Two dozen top US Democrats on delegation to Israel

Two dozen top US Democrats on delegation to Israel
A delegation of two dozen top House Democrats are in Israel this week, in a trip organised by the AIPAC-affiliated group American Israel Education Foundation. The visit comes amid heightened tensions over Israel's judicial overhaul.
3 min read
Washington, D.C.
08 August, 2023
A Democratic delegation is visiting Israel this week. [Getty]

House Speaker Hakeem Jeffries is leading a delegation of two dozen fellow Democratic House members to Israel this week in a trip organised by the AIPAC-affiliated group American Israel Education Foundation.

On Monday, 7 August, the first day of the trip, Jeffries said in a press conference that he was concerned about settler violence against Palestinians and hoped for a broad consensus on the country's judicial reform.

According to a report by Jewish Insider, Jeffries told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that their two countries could "continue to lean into the shared democratic values related to the judiciary, which is based on the principles of a respect for the rule of law, and an independent judiciary that serves as a check and balance on other parts of the government."

On the first day of the Democratic delegation's visit, pro-democracy demonstrators, whom Hakeem has praised for their strength, asked for a meeting with the group. However, it is unclear if they could have any extra meetings, given the affiliation of their organisers. 

AIEF is a tax-exempt non-profit (or non-governmental) organisation linked to AIPAC. It regularly hosts all-expense-paid trips for US lawmakers of both major political parties to visit Israel.

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The list of around 25 attendees for this trip (a draft of which was seen by Jewish Insider) includes both progressive and moderate Democrats, some of whom have consistently supported Israel and others who have been critical of its policies. 

Among the expected participants is Haley Stevens, a freshman congresswoman whose victory last year over Andy Levin, a progressive Jew who has supported conditioning US aid to Israel on its human rights practices, was significantly helped by AIPAC. 

For Jeffries, who replaced Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker last year, this is his second visit to Israel this year. For veteran Congressman Steny Hoyer, this is his 20th trip to the country.

The issues that plan to be discussed on the trip with Israeli and Palestinian leaders are regional security, Iran's nuclear ambitions, the two-state solution, the judicial overhaul debate, and the Abraham Accords. 

"With this trip, House Democrats reaffirm our commitment to the special relationship between the United States and Israel, one anchored in our shared democratic values and mutual geopolitical interests," said Jeffries, according to a press release from Jeffries' office.

"We will learn ways Congress can continue strengthening this alliance and enable peace and stability between Israel and its neighbours. As we listen and learn, we reiterate our ironclad commitment to the safety and security of Israel and the existence of Israel as a prosperous and Jewish democratic state."