Congressional leaders welcome plans by Muslim reps. to visit Israel

The leaders of a bipartisan U.S. congressional delegation visiting Israel welcomed plans by Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar to visit the country.

U.S. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (L) and House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer conduct a news conference in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem while leading a bipartisan group of more than 70 representatives. Photo by Debbie Hill

House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said that the two Muslim lawmakers who had previously made comments perceived as critical of Israel would leave the country with an improved appreciation of Israel’s security concerns.

“I think it would be helpful for anyone that has an opinion to come,” McCarthy said during a news conference Sunday. “I feel very secure in this. Everyone who comes with open ears, open eyes and an open mind will walk away and have an understanding … that this bond is unbreakable, that there is an importance to democracy in the Middle East, that it makes a difference to security. I think all should come.”

Hoyer said that he met with Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, who said that any member of Congress is welcome to visit and would likely “leave with a much more positive view.”

Omar and Tlaib are expected to visit Israel on Aug. 18, but ahead of Sunday’s press conference, Israeli media had reported that U.S. President Donald Trump opposed their visit.

The reports stated that Trump said if Omar and Tlaib, supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, want to boycott Israel, then “Israel should boycott them.”

White House Press secretary Stephanie Grisham dismissed the report as “fake news.”

Hoyer and McCarthy are leading a bipartisan delegation of 72 congressional lawmakers including 41 Democrats and 31 Republicans.

McCarthy said he was unaware of Trump being disappointed with the idea of Omar and Tlaib visiting Israel.

ByDaniel Uria