Nancy Pelosi: Israel is 20th century's 'greatest political achievement'

US House of Representatives Speaker is leading a Congressional delegation to Israel

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the Knesset on Wednesday. EPA
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US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised the “unbreakable bond” between the US and Israel during a visit to the country’s parliament in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

“The greatest political achievement of the 20th century was the establishment of the state of Israel,” said Ms Pelosi, who is leading a Congressional delegation to Israel.

Despite a change of leadership in both countries last year, the bilateral relationship has remained firm with Washington providing substantial funding to the Israeli military.

Ms Pelosi spoke about the latest $1 billion defence aid package, approved by the House in September, and the “terrorism posed by Iran”.

“The nuclear threat of Iran is a global one, it’s a threat to the world. Israel’s proximity to Iran is a concern to all of us,” she said.

Washington is trying to revive a 2015 nuclear deal signed between Tehran and world powers, which was scuppered when Donald Trump, who was US president at the time, withdrew from the accord.

Israel was firmly opposed to the landmark agreement and influencing the current talks from afar is a foreign policy priority.

While visiting the Israeli parliament, Ms Pelosi also reaffirmed Washington’s “commitment to a just and enduring two-state solution” for Israelis and Palestinians.

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, between House Armed Services Committee chairman Adam Smith, right, and US ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides during a meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on February 16. AFP

“Our nation will continue to work with Israel towards this solution as we pave a path towards peace with your leadership,” she said.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett opposes a Palestinian state and there have been no substantive peace talks for more than a decade. Ms Pelosi said that a peace deal and two state solution would be, “one that embraces, enhances stability and security for Israel, Palestinians and their neighbours."

Ms Pelosi has faced turmoil in her own Democratic caucus over Israel, including a brief and unsuccessful revolt by progressives against funding for Israel's Iron Dome missile defence system last fall. The House passed it and Ms Pelosi said she hopes the funding passes the Senate “soon.”

"Passage of this bill reflects the great unity, in Congress on a bipartisan and bicameral basis, for Israel. Security assistance to Israel is vital, because Israel security is an imperative for America’s security," she said at the time.

Ms Pelosi backed the bill to provide $1 billion to Israel to replenish Iron Dome interceptor missiles, many of which were used during the May conflict between Hamas and Israel.

The congressional delegation included Republican Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Barbara Lee, chairwoman of the subcommittee on foreign operations and Ted Deutch, who chairs the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Mideast.

The US is at loggerheads with Israel over Washington’s plans to reopen its consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem consulate was subsumed into the US embassy to Israel, which Mr Trump relocated from Tel Aviv, a controversial move that broke with international consensus.

Israel is refusing to permit the move and claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians view the eastern part of the city as the capital of their future state.

Ms Pelosi’s official agenda made no mention of visiting Palestinians and her office would not comment on whether such meetings were expected to take place.

Updated: February 16, 2022, 10:19 PM