Ryan announces trip to Jerusalem: 'America is not safer when we back away from Israel'

"The way I see it, a confident America does not shirk our commitments or shunt aside our allies," Ryan said Monday in announcing the trip.
By Doug G. Ware   |   March 21, 2016 at 9:08 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 21 (UPI) -- U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan on Monday announced that he will soon take his first trip abroad as congressional leader, to Israel, as part of his backing for the embattled Middle Eastern nation.

In an address at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference Monday, the Wisconsin Republican said he would take the trip when Congress recesses for Easter.

"It is always a good thing when America's leaders declare their support for Israel. But it is not enough," he said. "The speeches, the statements -- all the words in the world mean nothing if you don't back them up with action.

"That is why, two years ago, when the rockets were falling on Tel Aviv, the House approved emergency support for the Iron Dome. That is why, within just two months of my becoming Speaker, we voted to fund every penny of our security assistance commitment."

The congressional leader said his planned trip is partly motivated by a desire to provide Israel with more than "vague assurances that we've got their back" -- especially in view of last year's landmark nuclear accord between Tehran and Western allies, which Israel staunchly opposed.

"Instead of dismantling Iran's nuclear program, the [Obama] administration legitimized it. This is a huge threat to Israel," he said. "At this point, I think we have got to do everything we can to shore up our alliance."

Ryan's remarks followed an address from Vice President Joe Biden Monday, also to the AIPAC conference, during which the Senate leader defended the nuclear deal and said the United States is always keeping an eye on the situation.

"We are watching Iran like a hawk," Biden said. "If Iran violates the deal the U.S. will act. The U.S. will act. Our commitment is unambiguous."

In his speech, Ryan reiterated his belief that the United States needs to deliver a clear message that the longtime U.S. ally can depend on Washington for security -- particularly against Iran, which has rarely tried to hide its contempt for Israel.

"The way I see it, a confident America does not shirk our commitments or shunt aside our allies," he said.

Specifically, Ryan said the U.S. government should expand its security arrangements with Israel and help more with development of its missile defense -- actions he views as necessary due to what he called Iranian aggression in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon and repeated anti-Israel rhetoric -- like threatening statements Tehran stencils onto its missiles.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump takes members of the media on a walking tour at the construction site of the Trump International Hotel at the Old Post Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Monday. Trump has previously stated that the United States should stop spending "trillions" of dollars to support NATO. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

"Like my House colleagues, I understand that America is not safer when we back away from Israel. America is safer when we stand with Israel," he said. "A confident America keeps its word. It stands by our allies. It stands by Israel."

During his speech Monday, Ryan slammed an idea from GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump that the United States should pull out of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in order to look out for itself.

"At what point do you say, 'Hey, we have to take care of ourselves?'" Trump asked in The Washington Post Monday.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who similarly addressed Monday's AIPAC conference, also criticized Trump's assertion that the United States should be neutral in peace talks and conflicts involving Israel.

"We have to get this right," she said. "Candidates for president who think the United States can outsource Middle East security to dictators or that America no longer has vital national interests at stake in this region are dangerously wrong."

"Both the World War and the Cold War taught us that free countries are safer when we work with each other, when we stand by each other, when we trust each other," Ryan added. "Because then, when a threat arises, we can confront it together."

Trump has also said that if he's elected president, he will move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

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