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US Senators talk about two-states while visiting Israel

CM 03/09/2021

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A delegation of four Democratic senators visited Israel on Thursday and Friday, in order to meet the new government and discuss regional issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We expressed our hopes for the success of the new government and our strong support for a two state future,” tweeted Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) after his delegation met with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday. 
Murphy chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee panel dealing with the Middle East, and was the head of the delegation that included senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Jon Ossoff (D-GA). 

While in Israel they also met with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Isaac Herzog.
They also visited the Knesset on Thursday, where they met with Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman MK Ram Ben-Barak (Yesh Atid) and the head of the Ra’am party, MK Mansour Abbas.
After meeting with the delegation on Friday, Herzog tweeted, “Bipartisanship is a sacred pillar of the US-Israel alliance. Delighted to welcome a delegation of US Democratic Senators to Jerusalem. Held an open discussion with Senators @ChrisMurphyCT,  @SenBlumenthal, @ChrisVanHollen & @ossoff about our shared interests and values.”
The four men arrived in Israel after a trip to Beirut, where they warned that Lebanon was in a free fall as a result of its destabilizing financial meltdown.
Their comment reflected growing concern about the situation in Lebanon, where a financial collapse that began in 2019 hit a crunch point last month with a crippling fuel shortage that sparked security incidents and warnings of worse to come. They also warned that the Iranian fuel being shipped to Lebanon by the heavily armed Shi’ite group Hezbollah would come with strings attached, dismissing it as an attempted “photo-op by the Iranians.”
The financial crisis marks the biggest threat to Lebanon’s stability since the 1975-90 civil war.
More than half of Lebanon’s six million people have fallen into poverty. The World Bank says it is one of the sharpest depressions of modern times with the currency plunging more than 90% and the financial system paralyzed.
“Lebanon is in free fall…We’ve seen this movie before and it’s a horror story…, but the good news is it can, should, and hopefully will be avoided,” Blumenthal told reporters on Wednesday at the end of a two-day visit.

 US Senator Chris Van Hollen gestures during a news conference at Beirut International Airport in Beirut, Lebanon September 1, 2021 (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMED AZAKIR) US Senator Chris Van Hollen gestures during a news conference at Beirut International Airport in Beirut, Lebanon September 1, 2021 (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMED AZAKIR)

Lebanese politicians, who have failed to do anything to arrest the collapse, have been squabbling for more than a year over the make-up of a new cabinet to replace the one that quit in the aftermath of the Aug. 4, 2020 Beirut port explosion.
A new cabinet capable of implementing reforms is a necessary precursor to foreign aid. The United States is the biggest foreign aid donor to Lebanon.
The congressional delegation met Lebanese leaders including President Michel Aoun, the Maronite Christian head of state, who expressed hope the government would be formed this week, the presidency said in a statement.
Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, has on several occasions expressed optimism about the government being agreed soon.
“We did hear good news today,” Murphy, told reporters, adding he expected a government would be formed by the time he returned home.
Aoun’s adversaries accuse him and his faction, the Free Patriotic Movement, of obstructing the government formation by demanding a third of the seats, or effective veto power.
Aoun denies this, and told the senators that “many obstacles had been overcome.”
With the state floundering, Hezbollah, long part of the ruling system, announced last month that it was importing fuel oil from Iran, saying it aims to ease the crisis. Its adversaries have said this further undermined the authority of the state and exposed Lebanon to the risk of US sanctions.
Washington designates Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
Lebanon’s caretaker energy minister said on Wednesday that an import permit had not been requested for the fuel shipment.
The United States has been in talks with Egypt and Jordan over a plan to ease Lebanon’s power crisis. The Lebanese presidency has said it involves using Egyptian gas to generate power in Jordan that would be transmitted via Syria, which is under US sanctions, including the so-called Caesar act.
“The complication as you know is the transport via Syria,” said Van Hollen.”We are (urgently) looking for ways to address that despite the Caesar act.”

Source: Jerusalem Post

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