Dozens of U.S. congressional delegates from both parties are currently in Israel on a visit organized by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The Democratic delegation includes 32 first-time representatives (as well as nine veteran Democratic representatives) who are getting something of a crash course on Israel.
The delegates recently attended a debate carefully crafted to show both sides of the settlement issue—the pro-settlement position was presented by Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi, while the anti-settlement position was presented by former Peace Now chief Yariv Oppenheimer.
The debate certainly taught the legislators a thing or two about this hot-button issue that also sometimes muddles Israel-U.S. relations.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is a member of the Democratic delegation. This is an important point as he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will, in many ways, determine how Democrats vote on various issues, including on Israel.
Hoyer’s tone when I interviewed him for Channel 1 over the weekend left little to the imagination. Hoyer, who is known for his pro-Israel positions, did not mince words when he criticized Israel’s settlement policy.
The settlements, he said, undermine the two-state solution and any chance of reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians.
Contrary to the American practice of avoiding political criticism during overseas visits, he also lambasted U.S. President Donald Trump, whom he accused of using inflammatory rhetoric, rife with incitement, which Hoyer said only deepened the internal rift in the United States.
Hoyer’s remarks cannot be discounted. While many of the Democrats in Congress disapprove of the settlement enterprise, their public remarks are almost always styled in a way that cannot be interpreted as an outright dispute with Israel, and here is Hoyer, expressing his views in graphic detail.
If anything, his remarks are further evidence that the Democratic Party’s support for Israel’s policies is diminishing, certainly in comparison to the enthusiastic support expressed by the Republican Party.
Hoyer stressed that in Congress, both parties’ support for the Jewish state remains as steadfast as always, but it would seem that there is nonetheless crack in the veneer of bipartisan support for Israel.
Yaakov Ahimeir is a senior Israeli journalist, and a television and radio personality.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.