United States Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Welsh, took a one-week trip to Israel this week. The details of his trip are unknown at the request of the U.S. government because of “tension” (how unusual) in the Middle East, the Jerusalem Post reports.
The report added that the visit, Welsh’s first to Israel, was highly productive and produced “new channels of communications.”
Welsh’s trip comes right before Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey’s trip. Dempsey will be a guest of IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz. The meeting will cover “developments in Iran, Syria, and Egypt with Israeli leaders.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has signaled that Israel’s patience is running out over Tehran’s nuclear progress, and Dempsey might use the visit to gauge Israeli intentions, and possibly to try and convince Israel to refrain from dramatic decisions in the near future, in order to give diplomacy with newly-inaugurated Iranian President Hassan Rohani a chance.
Welsh isn’t the only high-up American in Israel this week. Over 30 Democratic House members are in the Land of Milk and Honey on a trip that’s being paid for by the American Israel Education Foundation, the educational subsidiary of AIPAC, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
But AIPAC refused to provide the full list of lawmakers who made the trip, presumably along with family members. An AIPAC spokesman referred questions to the office of Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer. A spokeswoman for the Maryland lawmaker also would not provide names and referred a reporter back to AIPAC.
Next week, Republicans, led by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor are going on the same trip. Basically, there are tons of important Americans in Israel for indistinct, conventional reasons. The trips are held on off-election years, JTA reports.
Participants meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and tour congressionally funded facilities, including Israel’s anti-missile systems.
Privately paid trips are prohibited but AIEF made it possible through a loophole that allows educational groups to subsidize them.