BEIRUT: Eighty-one members of the U.S. Congress will visit Israel over the next three weeks, with a delegation of 26 Democrats arriving Monday, Jerusalem Post reported Monday.
The paper also said that House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer is heading the Democratic delegation while House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will lead one of the Republican groups, which are comprised of 55 Republicans.
The visit is sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation which is affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
“The delegation will visit both Israel and the West Bank, and is scheduled to meet with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah,” the paper said.
The newspaper quoted Hoyer as saying in a statement that the visit will help the representatives learn “firsthand about the evolving security situation in the Middle East, the deep challenges facing Israel, and the role the U.S. can play in the region during this time of uncertainty.”
The congressmen’s visit comes as Hezbollah has escalated its campaign against Israel and the U.S., repeatedly accusing them of plotting to divide the region. Hezbollah MP Nawwaf Musawi recently said that the Cabinet would not allow the U.S. to turn Lebanon into a tool to be used for harming Syria.
He also reiterated Hezbollah’s stance that the U.S. and Israel plan to divide the region based on race and religion.
"The days of U.S. influence in Lebanon are over and no longer a U.S. ambassador will be able to dictate the country's policies," Musawi added.
Also Monday, The Israel Project welcomed a group of 18 Washington-based ambassadors from Asia, Europe, Africa and Latin America to Israel and Ramallah for a weeklong tour and high-level meetings, Jerusalem Post reported.
The visit coincides with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ efforts to win recognition of a Palestinian state within the borders defined in 1967. The Palestinians plan to ask the U.N. General Assembly to recognize a Palestinian state when the world body gathers in September.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee or AIPAC, is a lobbying group that advocates pro-Israel policies to the Congress and Executive Branch of the United States.
The American Israel Education Foundation spent more than $950,000 on congressional travel from January 2000 through mid-2005, virtually all of it on trips to Israel.
The foundation, created in 1988, considers itself a "supporting organization" of AIPAC.