Anyone tempted to underestimate the support Israel retains in Congress ought to think again. During the three-week congressional recess, an astounding 81 members of the House of Representatives will visit the Jewish state. The Jerusalem Post reports 55 Republicans (including half of the 47 GOP freshman members elected last year) and 26 Democrats will take part in the trips sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, a group affiliated with the AIPAC lobby. Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor as well as the Democrat’s Minority Whip Steny Hoyer will also be along for the ride. The members will be offered an opportunity to see the country up close as well as to meet with Israel’s leaders. For many of them, it will be their first visit to the country.
While one could dismiss this item as merely business as usual for a Congress that has never wavered in its backing for Israel, that’s the point. As I wrote in the July issue of COMMENTARY, at a time when Israel is confronted by a White House cooler to the Jewish state than any in the last two decades, Congress is the backstop that gives Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu the ability to say “no” to President Obama on security concessions. Far from being a minority point of view imposed on the country, the broad-based nature of the pro-Israel coalition cuts across the deep partisan divide in Washington and is deeply ingrained in the political culture of the United States.
Obama has followed up on his May ambush of Netanyahu with a summer of diplomatic pressure on Jerusalem. But the Congress, which in this case is a good reflection of American public opinion on the Middle East, stands ready to act as a brake on the confused foreign policies put forward by Obama. These trips are merely the tangible signs of an alliance that is too strong for any administration–even one as problematic as the present one–to destroy.