And 55 Republican members , traveling in two groups, will take week-long jaunts to the Holy Land. About 47 of them are freshmen — that’s half of the new Republicans and, according to the Jerusalem Post, it will be the first trip to the country for many of them. And probably ditto for many of their spouses and staffers.
The first GOP group’s senior member is House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.). The second group’s senior traveler is House Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), who’s fresh off a fine tour of Europe last month to promote the legacy of former president Ronald Reagan.
We know what you’re thinking: Who in his right mind would go to Israel in August? It’s in the 90s in Tel Aviv, even mid-80s in the hills of Jerusalem. And the Negev and Dead Sea? Unspeakably dreadful.
In addition, because it’s not an official congressional trip paid for by taxpayers, there will be no military jet, no taking off when you feel like it, no landing in military airports. That’s part of the reason, in today’s parlance, it’s downgraded to only an AA jaunt, not AAA.
Still, the excursion includes a round-trip flight in business class for lawmakers and their spouses (that alone is worth about $8,000), fine hotels and meals, side trips, and transportation and guides.
Unlike a proper congressional trip, we’re told that the AIPAC foundation “runs [the members] pretty good.”
There will be breakfast speakers, dinner speakers, Q&A’s with U.S. Embassy folks and Israeli media. There will be appearances by government leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (ask him about those recent demonstrations) and President Shimon Peres, as well as by opposition leaders. The schedule is packed from morning to late at night.
But wait. It’ll be okay. Judging from past trips — they’re not giving out the schedule for security reasons — the travelers will get a walking tour of the Old City and the Western Wall, plus a tour of the city, trips to Masada and the Dead Sea, the Holocaust Memorial, a trip north to the Golan Heights and to the border with Lebanon. There will be a couple of days to hang out in Tel Aviv — Miami on the Mediterranean.
At some point, the group will head to the West Bank to chat with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and other leaders. No Hamas folks are invited.
Best of all, unlike codels, these are segregated by party — we’re told the members prefer that. Because there is no need for bipartisan cover to justify a taxpayer-funded jaunt, you won’t need to pretend to like someone from across the aisle.