In his first foreign trip since being elected, Long Island’s three Republican Congressmen joined Speaker Kevin McCarthy on a trip to Israel this week to promote ties and highlight the importance of the country as an ally.
“To deter Iran’s dangerous behavior, our nations must continue to stand together. We, the United States, integrated Israel into our Central Command and are continuing to carry out military exercises together,” McCarthy said. “As long as I am Speaker, America will continue to support fully funding security assistance for Israel.”
“Our values are your values. Our heritage is your heritage. Our dreams are your dreams,” McCarthy said. “America is grateful for our friendship with Israel. We are a better nation because of it, and we must never shy away from defending it.”
Walking alongside McCarthy, freshman Rep. Anthony D’Esposito of Island Park tweeted about the honor of meeting King Abdullah II of Jordan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Isaac Herzog, the Western Wall, and sites holy to his Christian faith.
“The bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable and truly remarkable,” he wrote on Monday. “Yesterday, I had the honor of visiting and placing a note in the Western Wall, one of the last remaining segments of the Temple Mount – a moving experience and one I will not soon forget.”
D’Esposito also tweeted about meeting former constituents who made aliyah and former Ambassador David Friedman, who grew up in his district, which covers the Five Towns, West Hempstead, and Long Beach.
On a substantive note, McCarthy’s visit was more than a photo-op, as he took questions from reporters. Perhaps the most memorable exchange involved a Russian reporter, who sought clarification from his remarks last year that there would be “no blank checks” for Ukraine, and in light of far-Right members of his party who prefer to end the flow of military aid.
“No, I vote for aid for Ukraine. I support aid for Ukraine. I do not support what your country has done to Ukraine. I do not support your killing of the children either,” he said to applause from his colleagues. “And I think for one standpoint, you should pull out. And I don’t think it’s right. And we will continue to support, because the rest of the world sees it just as it is.”
He then spoke before the Knesset, at the invitation of his Israeli counterpart Amir Ohana. He was the second speaker in the history of Israel to do so.
“There is no place on this planet that I’d rather be than right here, right now. Today, I speak to you not only as an American congressional leader. I speak to you today as a lifelong supporter and true friend of Israel,” he began. “I am no stranger to your beautiful land. Since coming to Congress in 2007, I have traveled to Israel year after year, with hundreds of my colleagues, from both sides of the aisle.”
Although most of the delegation consisted of McCarthy’s party colleagues, it had six Democrats, including Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and 11 of his party colleagues visited Israel last week on a separate visit, having also met with Herzog, Netanyahu, Ohana, and Opposition Leader Yair Lapid.
That mission included Queens Democratic Party Chair Rep. Greg Meeks. He noted that on the occasion of Israel’s 75th anniversary since its renewed independence, the House passed a resolution that was marred by partisanship.
“Unlike previous resolutions honoring Israel’s birthday and achievement, this resolution, principally drafted by Republicans, broke the longstanding bipartisan tradition of acknowledging the importance of achieving a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians,” he wrote. He then reiterated the “iron-clad and long-term commitment to Israel’s security” by Democrats and Republicans, with “continued support for critical defensive capabilities,” such as the Iron Dome and the diplomacy of the Abraham Accords.
Standing at the Knesset podium, McCarthy urged Israelis to exercise caution about Chinese investments in their country.
“While the [Chinese Communist Party] may disguise itself as promoters of innovation, in truth, they act like thieves. We must not allow them to steal our technology,” he said. “I’m glad that Israel has put into place a process to review foreign investments. I strongly encourage Israel to further strengthen its oversight of foreign investment, particularly Chinese investment, building on the steps that you first took in 2019.”
In defiance of President Joe Biden and Israeli protesters opposed to the ruling coalition’s proposed reforming of the Israeli Supreme Court, McCarthy spoke of inviting Netanyahu and Herzog to speak before Congress.
“If that [a visit to the White House] doesn’t happen, I’ll invite the Prime Minister to come meet with the House,” McCarthy said in an interview with Israel Hayom. “He’s a dear friend, as a prime minister of a country that we have our closest ties with.”
By Sergey Kadinsky