The role of the Zionist lobby in taking politicians and journalists to Israel has a long and sordid history. Note my recent investigation into Australian student leaders being romanced.
The trip was much like any of the hundreds hosted in recent years by a nonprofit offshoot of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful Washington lobby, and the purpose was much the same: to solidify the support of American lawmakers for Israel at a time of Middle East tumult.
For eight expense-paid days, House Republicans visited Israel’s holiest sites, talked foreign policy with its highest officials and dined at its most famous restaurants, including Decks, known for its grilled beef, stunning views of the Sea of Galilee, and now, for an impromptu swim party.
With hundreds of Washington lawmakers having gone to Israel courtesy of the program, the trips have a reputation as being the standard-bearer for foreign Congressional travel. “We call it the Jewish Disneyland trip,” said one pro-Israel advocate in Washington.
But for lawmakers, the attention surrounding last summer’s trip — thanks to reports of a skinny-dipping Kansas lawmaker who was part of the delegation — has cast an unwanted spotlight once again on the practice of private groups paying for foreign travel, a source of frequent criticism in the past.