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Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy visits the Knesset, Israel’s parliament

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy visits the Knesset, Israel’s parliament

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., became the second U.S. speaker to address the Israeli Knesset, Israel’s national legislature, on Monday, where he strengthened U.S.-Israeli ties and the formation of a parliamentary Friendship Group announced between the House of Representatives and the Knesset.

McCarthy led a bipartisan congressional delegation to the country to celebrate its 75th anniversary of independence.

McCarthy, who received a standing ovation for his remarks, said the newly formed friendship group will allow the House to engage more directly with Israel’s parliament, travel to Israel to strengthen existing ties and host Knesset members who travel to the US

“This will be part of a new chapter in US-Israel relations,” he said.

On Sunday, McCarthy and the delegation arrived in the country and had dinner with Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana. The Knesset Speaker took the stage after dinner to play his electric guitar to the Eagles’ “Hotel California,” a nod to McCarthy’s home state.

In his speech to Parliament, McCarthy emphasized Israel’s struggle for independence and called the nation’s rebirth “nothing short of a modern miracle”.

“If we remain united, the forces of freedom and democracy will always prevail,” he said. “It’s the basis of our special relationship.”

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Why are there lawmakers in Israel?

Lawmakers traveled to Israel, one of the country’s Middle East allies, to celebrate its 75th anniversary and Yom HaZikaron, the national day of remembrance.

The trip marks McCarthy’s first trip abroad as Speaker of the House and marks the second time a seated Speaker has traveled to Israel since Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., in 1998.

The group consisted of 20 lawmakers.

McCarthy: US-Israeli relations ‘serving as basis for more peace’

McCarthy told the Israeli legislature that the United States and Israel are the only two countries “that were conceived in freedom and committed to the principle that all are equal.”

“My greatest hope is that our special relationship can serve as a basis for more peace in the Middle East,” he said. “The progress towards peace in recent years has been simply remarkable.”

The speaker said Congress will work with Israel to achieve a lasting peace, citing a bipartisan resolution passed in the House of Representatives encouraging the United States and Israel to expand cooperation on economic, security and civil issues. It also promotes the extension of the Abraham Accords, agreements to improve relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

“Congress stands ready to work with Israel to broaden and deepen these agreements and work towards a sustainable peace with all of Israel’s neighbors,” he said.

McCarthy says Iranian regime threatens democracy

The Speaker of the House of Representatives said the Iranian regime is the greatest threat to peace in the Middle East.

“Most of the unrest in this region, the violence and instability, can be traced back to this source,” he said.

As long as he is spokesman, McCarthy said the United States will continue to fully fund security aid to Israel and ensure Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon.

“We cannot allow the Iranian regime’s evil campaign to succeed,” he said.

Expansion of economic cooperation

The speaker referred to Israel’s “thriving democracy” in the Middle East, cited its innovative high-tech sector and said the two countries need to expand economic cooperation.

He pointed to a congressional working group formed in 2021 on bilateral military research and development to capitalize on both nations’ innovations in military technology.

“I look forward to working with you as we strengthen this unique and vital bond,” he said.

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