Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa) joined more than a dozen other senators in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 15 to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and covered a wide range of issues, focusing on the continued threats to Israel by the Iranian regime, Syria, the peace process and one- and two-state solutions.
“When [Iranians are] trying to advance missile technology or when they’re supporting Hezbollah or Hamas or the Syrian regime or all kinds of extreme elements in the region, we have to be not only concerned about [it] but be determined to counter that aggression in the region,” Casey said.
“We just want to make sure that if there’s no other message we deliver to the prime minister of Israel in that kind of a meeting is a message of bipartisanship — Democrats and Republicans that stand united,” he added. “It doesn’t matter who’s president or who’s in the Congress. We’re united to support the security of Israel.”
Casey, an outspoken supporter of Israel and Middle East peace negotiations who has been to the Jewish state five times, said the group was evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.
“[Netanyahu] also talked about our relationship and the support [Israel] gets from the United States and how important that is,” he said.
Casey said Netanyahu spoke broadly about the Middle East peace process.
“One of the concerns that the prime minister has raised, and one that I have real concerns about as well, is I hope we can continue to support a two-state solution. That’s my view,” he said. “But one of the elements of that, ultimately, has to be in addition to going into negotiations without preconditions and having the parties work through all of the critical issues, the Palestinians have to commit themselves to the recognition of Israel and the security of Israel. And if they’re not going to do both, there’s no way that you can have a successful peace process.”
As things stand now, Casey said, a two-state solution is out of reach.
“But we should continue to strive for that as long as the ultimate resolution of a two-state solution involves recog-nition and security of Israel,” he continued.
The overall message of the meeting was solidarity, with Netanyahu reiterating the threats of extremism and violence that Israel endures on a regular basis from Iran and others in the region.
“We’ve got to be vigilant about that and determined to stop it,” said Casey. “Of course, part of that is making sure that you don’t have incitement where schoolchildren are reading in their textbooks [as] a conduit to extremism.”
As far as his predictions on the Iran deal and the U.S. embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Casey leaves that up to the Trump administration.
“We’ll have to wait and see,” he said. “Whatever they’re proposing is something Congress is going to have to react [to].”
The meeting came after President Donald Trump held a press conference with Netanyahu at the White House where Trump said he’d prefer if Netanyahu would “hold back on settlements for a little bit” and agree to more “flexibility” and compromises with Palestinians.
“The United States will encourage a peace, and really a great peace deal. We’ll be working on it very diligently. But it is the parties themselves who must directly negotiate such an agreement,” Trump said.
Last month, Trump tapped his Jewish son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner to broker Middle East peace deals between Israel and the Palestinians.
“Jared is such a good lad, he will secure an Israel deal which no one else has managed to get,” Trump said. “You know, he’s a natural talent, he is the top, he is a natural talent. … He has an innate ability to make deals, everyone likes him.”
Netanyahu continued to emphasize in the press conference his two prerequisites for a two-state solution: Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state and that Israel will control the security of the state.
Also still up in the air remains the future of the Iran deal and the moving of the U.S. embassy, which neither Trump or Netanyahu got into detail about.
Trump continued in the press conference to say a Middle East peace agreement will be made — though offered no specifics for how or when.
“We’re going to make a deal,” Trump said. “It might be a bigger and better deal than people in this room even understand.”
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