Pelosi Statement on Bipartisan Congressional Delegation to Israel

May 20, 2008
Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Rules Committee Ranking Member David Dreier and members of the bipartisan delegation to Israel and Iraq held a news conference in the Capitol this afternoon to discuss their trip. The delegation returned to Washington early this morning. 

The congressional delegation included Pelosi, Hoyer, Dreier, Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam, Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel, Democratic Caucus Vice Chair John Larson, Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman, Foreign Affairs Middle East Subcommittee Chairman Gary Ackerman, Appropriations Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chairman Nita Lowey, Chairman of Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe Alcee Hastings, Homeland Security Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment Subcommittee Chair Jane Harman and Foreign Affairs Committee member Ron Klein.

Below are the Speaker's opening remarks:

“Good afternoon.  We are here this afternoon to talk about a visit that we made to Israel to observe the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel.

“Being Members of Congress, we are afforded many opportunities and privileges. I can't think of any that surpasses the privilege of joining together in a bipartisan way to bring the good wishes of this Congress and congratulations of the American people to the people of Israel on the establishment of the state of Israel 60 years ago.

“We began our trip, appropriately so, by visiting Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Israel. It was important for us to see the ashes from which this great state of Israel had risen.  We took a moment to say the mourners' prayer, Kaddish, for our late colleague -- I get emotional when I talk about Tom Lantos, the late chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and a strong friend of Israel, and the only survivor of the Holocaust ever to serve in Congress.

“During the trip, we had the opportunity to meet with the President, President Peres. We met with Prime Minister Olmert, Defense Minister Barak, Foreign Minister Livni, opposition leader Netanyahu, Speaker Itzik.

“We also had the chance to bring greetings to the big celebratory symphony that they had there. We visited the Hadassah Hospital. We met with interfaith leaders -- the top rabbi of Jerusalem, the top Christian leader of Jerusalem and leaders from the Muslim community there.  So it was a very special trip.

“In each of these meetings, we discussed the security of Israel. Israel is a democracy and a strong ally that lives in a dangerous neighborhood.  And during the meetings, in both Israel and Iraq, which I'll talk about later -- the threat posed by Iran was discussed.

“When we were there, we presented to the Knesset and to Speaker Itzik our resolution, unanimously passed in the House and Senate, congratulating Israel on its 60th anniversary.

“On the day we left for our trip, the House passed important legislation which provided for increased security for Israel by treating Israel as we do the NATO countries and Australia and New Zealand for the purposes of acquiring military equipment.  The bill recognizes that Israel's national security is a priority for the United States, because it is in our national interest to support the security of Israel.

“But in all of our meetings, we talked about what we have in common, how proud we were of President Truman when he, 11 minutes after its founding, recognized the state of Israel.

“We also acknowledged what we have in common, that we are countries that were created by pioneers, grown by immigrants, and committed to democracy.

“While we were there, in the course of our visit, some of us took a side trip to Iraq. In preparation for Memorial Day, we brought the greetings of the American people and the Congress, in a bipartisan way, to our men and women in uniform.

“We thanked them for their courage, their patriotism, and the sacrifices they and their families are making for us. We met with Prime Minister Maliki. We met with the speaker of the council, as they call it, in Iraq.  We also met with General Petraeus and we met with Ambassador Crocker.

“We had interesting meetings. From my own standpoint, I emphasized the point that I think we've lost too many lives. But we can go into that in the Q&A.

“With that, I'd like to yield to our distinguished Majority Leader, Mr. Hoyer.”