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Amid Party Tensions Over Israel, Top House Democrat Leads 41 Reps On Trip There

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Steny Hoyer, the Democratic House majority leader who is known for his close ties to the pro-Israel community, is leading a larger than usual tour of the country after a season of Israel tensions in the caucus.

Hoyer’s office on Aug. 4 announced that he will take 41 Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives this week.

“I am pleased to join so many House Democrats in traveling to Israel to reaffirm our support for a critical U.S. ally and to continue learning about the opportunities and the challenges facing Israel and the Middle East,” Hoyer, D-Md., said in the release.

The tours, which take place in non-election years, attracted 37 Democrats in 2013 and 21 in 2015. They are sponsored by the American Israel Educational Foundation, an affiliate of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Hoyer did not say in his statement how many of the 41 are freshmen, the primary target for these tours.

The tensions among Democrats have been over the influence of two progressive congresswomen who back the boycott Israel movement, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. Tlaib has said she will lead a separate West Bank tour, but has yet to announce dates or who will join her, although Omar is slated to attend.

Meetings are scheduled with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, opposition leader Benny Gantz and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. There will be a tour of sites deploying the congressionally funded Iron Dome short-range anti-missile system.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., will lead a separate tour for Republicans.

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