Four U.S. senators, including White House hopefuls John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, and Joe Lieberman, an Independent from Connecticut, vowed during a visit to Israel Sunday that Congress would not approve cutting loan guarantees to the Jewish State. They were reacting to U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell, who proposed the option during an interview with American television journalist Charlie Rose.
Mitchell later denied that he made a threat or an “implied threat" although a transcript of the interview states, “Under American law, the United States can withhold support on loan guarantees to Israel. President George Bush Sr. did so...on one occasion... That’s one mechanism that’s been publicly discussed.”
Republican Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming and John Thune of South Dakota agreed with McCain and Lieberman that “any attempt to force Israel to negotiate by denying Israel’s support will not pass the U.S. Congress.”
All four senators are wrapping up a trip that has taken them to Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon and Israel.
Senators McCain and Lieberman also visited the Western Wall (Kotel), where they were hosted by Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz. They reminded Rabbi Rabinowitz of their visit to the Wall and the Western Wall Tunnels a year ago. McCain said he learned then of the deep bonds linking the Jewish People with the holy site. The rabbi showed them the most recent archaeological finds in the area.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with all four of the visiting Senators in Jerusalem earlier in the day. “I am happy to meet with these Senate leaders and old friends of Israel who have proven their support at difficult moments,” Barak said. “I am confident that Israel will continue to enjoy their support in all situations in the future."