Senators on Middle East tour talk Iran with Israel, Saudis

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A bipartisan delegation of seven senators on a tour of the Middle East discussed Iran’s nuclear potential with the leaders of Israel and Saudi Arabia.

“We must continue to support efforts to battle extremism in the region, whether by ISIL, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah or Hamas,” said a statement issued Monday from the office of Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate’s Middle East subcommittee, marking the end of the tour in Israel.


ISIL is one of several acronyms used for the Islamic State, the terrorist group that has seized swaths of Iraq and Syria.

“We must continue to seek an end to the Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons,” the statement said.

“We must stand against efforts to discredit Israel in international forums,” the statement said. “We must continue to insist that Israel and Palestine do the hard work to find a path to peaceful co-existence. And we must continue to do what Americans do to an unprecedented degree – provide humanitarian aid to suffering people such as those fleeing violence in Syria.”

At a news conference Monday in Jerusalem, members of the delegation reiterated their opposition to the Palestinians joining the International Criminal Court and the court opening a preliminary examination of last summer’s Gaza Strip conflict, Reuters reported.

Republicans want to explore avenues to cut off aid to the Palestinians unless they withdraw from the ICC, while the Obama administration is opposed to any cuts.

There also appear to be differences between the parties over whether to pass new sanctions against Iran to be triggered should nuclear talks between Iran and the major powers fail.

Other senators in the delegation included Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), John Barrasso (R-Wy.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Angus King (I-Maine), who caucuses with Democrats.