A Congressional delegation visiting Jerusalem says America's relationship with Israel is "stronger than ever."
U.S. Representative Kevin McCarthy, Congressional Republican majority whip, was among the delegation singing "Happy Birthday" Wednesday to President Shimon Peres to mark his 88th year this week.
The group sang a special brief tribute version of the song used in Congress by House Speaker John Scheiner in Washington D.C. to fete members of Congress on their birthdays, bringing a huge smile to the president's face.
Among the delegation were many first-time Congressional visitors to the Jewish State, as well as a well known philanthropic couple Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson. The group was similarly impressed with the president's social and academic acumen, as had been the Democratic delegation that visited last week.
"This is the largest delegation of its kind," McCarthy commented upon their arrival. "Everyone is aware of the close relations between the U.S. and Israel, but especially those who have come here for the first time to see with their own eyes clearly see the security issues, and are impressed."
McCarthy added that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's recent address to the Congress had been a resounding success. "We thought he was absolutely right when he said that Israel has no better friend than the U.S., and that the U.S. has no better friend than Israel," he added.
The Congressman stressed that relations between the U.S. and Israel have never been closer, saying "America stands by its friends."
However, reporters standing outside the presidential residence later were given a slightly different response when they asked the delegation about the chances that ailing Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard, serving a life sentence in the U.S. on a single charge of passing classified information to Israel, might be freed.
As had U.S. Representative Sten Hoyer a week earlier, McCarthy did not sidestep the issue but also gave little hope, saying instead that the matter was a legal one, to be left to the judicial system.