Rep. Barry Loudermilk will return from Israel in the next few days with a renewed determination to defeat the Iran nuclear deal in Congress.
“We have to stop this or our children and grandchildren will pay the price,” the Cassville Republican said in a phone interview Thursday, Aug. 13, from Israel, where he joined other freshman congressmen on a trip financed by AIPAC’s charitable affiliate, the American Israel Education Foundation.
It’s his second trip to Israel this year. He spent three days there in May as part of larger trip through the Middle East and Europe with a congressional task force on foreign fighters.
“When you’re here, you see Israel is surrounded by nations that would love to see Israel wiped off the face of the earth,” Loudermilk said. This week’s delegation looked into Gaza, faced a rough reception from some Muslim worshippers on the Temple Mount (Loudermilk was in a different tour group from the one pushed around), and stood above Syria and heard explosions from the civil war there.
“It’s important that we get to know the only true democracy in the Middle East,” Loudermilk said about the value of the two trips to his constituents in Bartow, Cherokee, Cobb and Fulton counties.
He emphasized the common heritage of the United States and Israel, citing the influence of Jethro’s governance recommendations to Moses on the representative democracy embedded in the U.S. Constitution and noting the Jerusalem intersection of King David and George Washington streets.
Loudermilk also sees similarities between militiamen who left home to fight the British in other colonies during the American Revolution and the Lone Soldiers who join the Israel Defense Forces to defend the Jewish homeland.
The latest connection is the shared threat of the Iran deal. The under-negotiation deal was a recurring topic during the May visit, he said. Now, “everywhere we’ve gone, everyone we’ve met with, the focus has been how bad the Iran deal is.”
Those meetings have included Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Labor Party and opposition leader Isaac Herzog, retired IDF Gen. Amos Yadlin, and farmers in the Negev along the Gaza border.
“As diverse as the Israeli population is, and it has amazing diversity, they’re all unifying around this one issue,” Loudermilk said. “The Iran deal is bad for us, but it’s terrifying for the state of Israel.”
He echoed Netanyahu in saying that Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile program, which will be clear of international restrictions in eight years under the deal, targets the United States, not Israel, which Iran can reach without ICBMs.
The greatest threat to Israel under the deal, Loudermilk said, is the $150 billion windfall Iran will receive in unfrozen oil revenues, which the congressmen expects to result in increased spending on the likes of Hezbollah and Hamas.
“We’re putting in the hands of madmen the means to build a conventional arsenal within a short amount of time,” he said.
That likely spending also makes the Palestinian Authority worry about the Iran deal, Loudermilk said. The congressional delegation visited with PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Ramallah.
“It was an interesting meeting,” Loudermilk said. “You could tell there were concerns over the Iran deal because they are having issues with Hamas.”
Because Hamas’ control of Gaza is one of the obstacles PA President Mahmoud Abbas must overcome to make any peace deal with Israel, the Iran deal also damages prospects for a two-state solution, the congressman said. “It’s difficult to come up with any kind of agreement as long as terror acts are going on.”
Otherwise, he thinks the prospects for peace are brighter because “Abbas is playing a little better than he has in the past.”
He also said he is gaining confidence daily that Congress will have enough votes to overturn President Barack Obama’s promised veto of a rejection of the Iran deal. He said most members of Congress know it’s a bad deal for the United States and for Israel; the key is to get them to vote their consciences.