In 1st tour as senator, Elizabeth Warren visits Israel, Jordan
Expected to meet with US troops, government officials, and UN agencies in troubled region
WASHINGTON — Senator Elizabeth Warren arrived Saturday in Tel Aviv, planning to visit Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan as the Massachusetts Democrat makes her first trip abroad as senator.
Warren is expected to meet with government officials as well as military troops from Massachusetts who are serving in the region. A Warren aide, who confirmed the senator’s travels, could not say specifically with whom she will meet, but said it involved Israeli and Jordanian government officials, as well as representatives from the Palestinian Authority.
Warren also planned to meet with representatives of two United Nations organizations that work with Palestinian refugees, as well as the US Agency for International Development.
“She is visiting the Middle East because the United States has an important interest in the region,” Warren spokeswoman Lacey Rose said.
In the Senate, Warren has largely focused on domestic issues, rarely choosing to wade into foreign policy. The trip appears mostly designed to allow her a chance to familiarize herself with Israel, one of America’s closest allies and the biggest recipient of foreign aid. It also allows her to travel to some of the safer areas of the Middle East and accomplish a basic duty as senator: to see firsthand the areas where US Senate votes have an impact.
Warren had been among only a handful of senators who have not traveled abroad.
Although the trip may reignite speculation of a 2016 presidential run, Warren has been planning to travel to Israel for months. Aides said in August she planned to take such a trip following a busy schedule of campaigning during the midterm elections.
Rose did not say when Warren would return.
The trip was organized by the State Department and the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. But Warren is the only senator on the trip. She is traveling with her legislative director, Jon Donenberg.
“Government officials would be very interested in meeting with her,” said Herb Keinon, the diplomatic correspondent for the Jerusalem Post. “This is a country that likes to keep an eye on who could have a big impact on our lives.”
Keinon said Warren probably would meet with the country’s top officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Her visit comes at a time when the country is consumed by news about whether a US-led deal will be struck with Iran over its nuclear weapons.
“His number-one priority is Iran,” Keinon said. “I imagine any conversation with him, the top priority would be Iran.”
Although most government officials will be well aware of the senior senator from Massachusetts, Keinon said, “if she walks down the street and shouts at the top of her lungs, ‘I’m Elizabeth Warren!’ no one will know who she is.”
In general, Warren’s foreign policy views seem to be anti-interventionist, with a skeptical eye to any US military action. In February, delivering her only major speech on foreign policy since she took office, she warned of using military might without considering the implications.
“When military action is on the table, do we fully and honestly debate the risk that while our actions would wipe out existing terrorists or other threats, they also might produce new ones?” she said in a speech at Georgetown University.
She also warned against harming civilians and risking inciting insurgents.
“The failure to make civilian casualties a full and robust part of our national conversation over the use of force is dangerous — dangerous because of the impression that it gives the world about our country and dangerous because of how it affects the decisions that we make as a country,” Warren said.
Warren was pressed on her support of Israel and her votes to send money to support its fight against Hamas, during an August meeting with constituents in Barnstable.
Warren said Israel was being attacked “indiscriminately” and had a right to fight back even though civilian casualties were the “last thing Israel wants.”
“But when Hamas puts its rocket launchers next to hospitals, next to schools, they’re using their civilian population to protect their military assets,” Warren said, according to the Cape Cod Times. “And I believe Israel has a right, at that point, to defend itself.”