A fifth of all congressmen taking paid-for holidays to Israel this summer - TriWooOx - 08-11-2011 01:27 PM
Quote:A fifth of members of the House of Representatives will be taking their summer holidays in Israel this year with almost all the trips being paid for by one of America's most powerful lobby groups.
The American Israel Education Foundation is shelling out to take around eighty congressmen to Israel during the summer recess period.
The group is supporting organisation to the American Israel Public Affair Committee (AIPAC) which describes itself as 'America's leading pro-Israel lobby'.
According to the Jerusalem Post, 55 of the holidaymakers will be Republicans while 26 will be Democrats. Many will be visiting Israel for the first time.
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer will head the Democratic delegation, while House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will lead one of the Republican groups.
This year Israel is believed to be the most popular foreign holiday destination for members of the house.
Most of those making the trip are scheduled to meet with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
Among the Democrats will be the popular Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., who will stay for eight days.
Jackson said he is looking forward to learning about Israel's business and commercial sectors as well as the latest tools and technology the country is using in its fight against terror.
AIPAC is widely regarded as one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington, with many critics claiming they operate on behalf of the Israeli Government and have secured too much influence on congress.
In May this year Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed their 2011 policy conference in Washington saying:'I want to thank the president and Congress for providing Israel with vital assistance so that Israel can defend itself by itself.
'I want to thank you all for supporting the Iron Dome missile defense system. A few weeks ago, Hamas terrorists in Gaza fired eight rockets at our cities, at Ashkelon and Beer Sheva.
'Now, these rockets never reached their targets. Iron Dome intercepted them in midair. For the first time, a missile defense system worked in combat. That's a precedent in military history. And I want to say thank you, America.'