U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, led a Congressional delegation, along with Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), to Israel. The delegation met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, and Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein to discuss the importance of the U.S. -- Israel strategic partnership, regional stability, the threats from Iran, Syria and Egypt, as well as the ongoing peace negotiations. The delegation also met with the Israeli Cyber Bureau and the Institute for Counter-Terrorism, and received an aerial tour of the country from members of the Israel Defense Forces and visited an Iron Dome missile battery site to analyze and discuss the defensive capabilities of Israel to safeguard her citizens from Hamas short range rockets. The delegation also met with the U.S. Ambassador, the Ambassador-designate Ron Dermer, a Miami Beach native, human rights advocate Natan Sharansky, U.S. diplomats, and our foreign service personnel. Congs. Ros-Lehtinen and Frelinghuysen also visited the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem which services both Palestinians and Israelis with state of the art medical care. After departing Israel, Chairman Ros-Lehtinen issued the following statement:
"It was a great privilege and honor to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres to discuss threats facing both of our nations as well as indentifying new ways to strengthen our bilateral relationship. We must continue to work together to prevent Iran from achieving full nuclear breakout capacity because the Iranian regime continues to be an existential threat to the democratic Jewish State of Israel. In addition, the Iran-Syria nexus must be dismantled in order keep Israel safe and secure regional stability to prevent the Middle East from becoming more violent due to extremism."
"It was also extremely important to speak with entities within the Israeli government that are fighting on the front lines every day protecting this oasis of freedom. Visiting Iron Dome, speaking with IDF military personnel, and meeting with Israeli security officials reaffirms that we must continue to work closely with our ally - the people of Israel - to improve and protect our national security interests and to prevent the majority of air strikes coming from extremists in Gaza from hurting innocent civilians. Another vital component in ensuring Israel's security is by seeking greater cooperation with the Egyptians to secure the Sinai, which has been a lawless area that is prone to violence, terrorist smuggling, and jihadists's activities."
"When Israel is strong, America is strong and that is why it is important for the U.S. to help Israel sustain its qualitative military edge. The position of the United States should be to counter all threats by strengthening our cooperation efforts with strong allies to protect our national security interests in the region."
Note: In March 2013, Ros-Lehtinen introduced H.R. 938, the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013. This bill, with over 340 cosponsors, declares Israel to be a major strategic partner of the U.S., reaffirms the U.S. commitment to enhancing security cooperation with Israel in pursuit of shared objectives, and encourages greater bilateral cooperation in the areas of cyber-security and the sciences.