By Anav Silverman
Tazpit News Agency
With more than a week to go before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, two Republican representatives visited Israel last week to demonstrate their support of the Jewish state. Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) and Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) spent time in Israel visiting with the IDF, meeting local Arab and Israeli politicians as well as Prime Minister Netanyahu in a trip sponsored by Proclaiming Justice to the Nations (PJTN) and Yes! Israel Missions.
“We are here to pay tribute to this great country,” said Pittenger, who noted it was his third time meeting the Israeli prime minister in 18 months in an interview with Tazpit News Agency. “Prime Minister Netanyahu is a remarkable man; one of the great leaders of our day,” he told Tazpit News Agency.
The Israeli prime minister is set to speak before Congress on March 3 to address the dangers of easing economic sanctions against Iran by the international community under the terms of an emerging deal between the West and the Islamic Republic.
“Regretfully our president is the Neville Chamberlain of our day – he doesn’t know how to handle evil,” commented Pittenger, who said that Netanyahu and Obama represented two different world views. “Netanyahu is Winston Churchill – and the American public deserves to hear his point of view as the prime minister of the country that sits in the heart of it all,” the North Carolina congressman said.
“Our greatest ally – Israel, seems to have been cast out to sea with the Iran issue,” said Rep. Dennis Ross to Tazpit. “It’s unfortunate that President Obama is casting a blind eye to the Israeli-American relationship. There are real life consequences to allowing Iran nuclear arms and the nuclear threat will be one that will impact our everyday lives.”
Ross told Tazpit that his visit to Israel only strengthened his convictions regarding his support of the country and seeing life first-hand. “I visited a tank battalion on the Golan Heights and it was admirable to see young Israeli boys protecting the country – some of them only 19-years-old,” said the Florida congressman, who also serves as the senior deputy majority whip in the House of Representatives.
The U.S. Representatives visited sensitive military sites and biblical heritage sites and also toured Judea and Samaria, Hebron, and Jerusalem, while learning about counter-terrorism, territorial issues, security complexities and the historical background of the region. The Yesha Council, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Temple Institute, Ariel University, Keep Jerusalem, Republicans Abroad Israel and others took part in the program itinerary.
The Congressmen also took time out of their week-long visit to hold a town hall meeting with the public at the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel on Thursday, February 19th.
Speaking to American-Israelis at the town hall and answering their questions, the Congressmen emphasized that the world could not allow Iran to access nuclear weapons under any circumstances.
“By March 24, I hope we will have a resolution that says nuclear capabilities will not succeed in Iran,” said Ross, referring to the bi-partisan Kirk-Menendez bill, known as the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015, which will impose new sanctions on Iran if international negotiators fail to reach a deal on Tehran’s nuclear program by June 30. The U.S., China, Britain, France, Russia and Germany are aiming to reach a political understanding with Iran by the end of March.
Obama has said that he would veto the bill and in a press conference last month promised that “Nobody around the world least of all the Iranians doubt my ability to get additional sanctions if these negotiations fail.”
Meanwhile, Arab governments are privately expressing their concern to Washington about a potential deal according to a recent Wall Street Journal report. “At this stage, we prefer a collapse of the diplomatic process to a bad deal,” said an Arab official quoted in the report. The U.S. has now said that it is no longer realistic to eliminate Iran’s nuclear infrastructure in a final deal, despite the Obama administration’s initial stance that it would completely dismantle Iran’s nuclear program. Sunni states, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have said that such an agreement would only strengthen their rival Shiite-run Iran.
“Israel is the canary in the coal mine – as Israel goes, so does the U.S.,” Ross told Tazpit. “I can only ask President Obama to be a leader who unites us together and not against each other.