Rep. Christopher Shays and three of his colleagues checked in with the Forward mid-way through a three-day trip to Israel.
Shays, the vice-chairman of House Government Reform Committee, also heads its subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations. He described the visit to Israel as an effort to “lend our support to Israel, to make it clear that we understand that they are confronting terrorists and they’re confronting Syria and Iran in the process” and to make sure that Israel’s kidnapped soliders are not forgotten.
A return of the soldiers “is part of the ceasefire that is to be unconditional .. and no one is taking responsibility,” Shays said. “It’s absolutely essential that these soldiers are well, and that they’ll be returned.”
The bi-partisan delegation, which also included Republican Rep. Bob Inglis of South Carolina, and Democratic Reps. Al Greene of Texas and Brian Higgins of New York, has so far met with the deputy mayor of Haifa and the families of Israel’s three kidnapped soldiers, as well as toured a kibbutz in the North. A meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is planned for tomorrow.
When asked for his assessment of the current cease-fire and the likelihood that Hezbollah will be disarmed, Shays said “I don’t think they’ll be disarmed, I just don’t think they’ll be able to brandish their weapons as they have in the past,” but added that he believed the international force would be helpful.
After the stop in Israel, the group will move on to Jordan, Iraq, Sudan, Italy and the U.K.