Washington – While President Obama was trying to sell the American public on a deal with Iran aimed at curbing that nation’s nuclear ambitions, Rep. Elizabeth Esty on Wednesday was receiving a very different message in Jerusalem.
Esty, D-5th District, is one of 22 Democrats on a trip to Israel funded by the educational arm of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the group leading the lobbying charge against the deal. They arrived in Israel late Tuesday and will return to the United States next week.
AIPAC said it takes a group of freshmen lawmakers to Israel every two years during Congress’s August break, and the timing of the trip has nothing to do with the Iran deal, which will be voted upon in Congress in September.
But the Iran pact is a subject of discussion with the Israeli officials the lawmakers are meeting, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, members of Congress on the trip say.
Besides the 22 Democratic lawmakers, AIPAC is also taking 36 Republican lawmakers to Israel. They will leave this weekend.
Travelers also include some lawmakers, like Esty, who are not freshmen. Esty, 5th District, is serving her second term in Congress.
The Iran deal, reached by the United States, the four other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, Germany and Iran, would require Iran to halt its nuclear program in return for the lifting of economic sanctions against the nation.
AIPAC and Israeli officials say Iran can’t be trusted to stop its nuclear activities and the release of sanctions will mean increased oil revenues the nation would use to beef up its arsenal of conventional weapons and fund terrorist groups.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu gave a dire warning about the pact in a webcast to American Jewish organizations.
“This is the time to oppose this dangerous deal,” he said. “The days when the Jewish people could not speak out for themselves are over.”
Samaia Hernandez, Esty’s spokeswoman, said the lawmaker planned the trip to Israel “a long time ago,” before the details of the Iran pact were released last month.
Hernandez also said Esty is still reviewing the pact and is undecided whether she’ll support it.
“She’s been meeting with leaders of Connecticut’s Jewish community since the beginning of the year about it,” Hernandez said.
On Monday, Sen. Chris Murphy became the first Connecticut lawmaker to back the pact.
“This idea that you can get a better deal, to me, appears like pure fantasy,” Murphy said.
Meanwhile, Obama on Wednesday warned lawmakers they were heeding the same “drumbeat of war” and falling prey to the same kinds of fear-fueled claims that led to the war in Iraq.
“The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy and some sort of war — maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon,” Obama told a crowd at American University. “How can we in good conscience justify war before we’ve tested a diplomatic agreement that achieves our objectives?”
Other trips scheduled for Congress’ summer break
The month- long August break, which started for the House this week and will begin for the Senate next week, provides time for lawmakers to reconnect with their families and constituents—and do some traveling at special interest or taxpayer expense.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., is on a trip to Italy and Ukraine with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other House Democrats.
And Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, plans another congressional delegation trip, or CODEL, to an undisclosed location overseas with the House Intelligence Committee.
Himes spokesman Patrick Malone said details of the hush-hush trip “will be released once he comes home, for security reasons.”