Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-16) met with Vice President Joseph Biden and White House staff this week to discuss President Barack Obama's upcoming trip to the Middle East, and his first visit as President to Israel. Rep. Engel is the Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and has extensive expertise on issues affecting Israel. The statement follows:
"It was a privilege to have received an invitation to help prepare for President Obama's upcoming visit to Israel. I conveyed to the White House that this is the right trip at the right time. It is always significant when the President travels overseas, especially to Israel, our closest ally in the region. It sends a clear message of the unbreakable bond between our two nations. The Vice President and I spoke of Israel's thriving democracy, but also the challenges the Jewish state faces with the Palestinians, from Iran, and Syria. I recalled when President Obama and I first met, not here in Washington, DC, but on a trip to Israel and the West Bank when he was a U.S. Senator from Illinois. We met at the time with Prime Minister Olmert and Chairman Abbas, and those visits and experiences provided critical lessons in his eventual run for the presidency. I am pleased that President Obama, so early in his second term, is visiting Israel and I know his firsthand observations there and dialogue with Israelis will only further positively shape the special relationship between our two nations."