Two Bay Area members of Congress tour Israel, West Bank with J Street

Reps. Barbara Lee (D-East Bay) and Jackie Speier (D-Peninsula) were among a group of congresswomen  on a recent six-day tour of Israel and the West Bank under J Street’s auspices.

Barbara Lee

Other members of the group, which returned to the United States late last week, were Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) and Gwen Moore (D-Wisc.).

The delegation of women, including 14 female philanthropists, met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and “ordinary women.” The visit included crossing into the West Bank from the Kalandiya checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

The trip was sponsored by the J Street Education Fund and the Women Donors Network, a group that promotes investment to advance peace and women’s rights.

Jackie Speier

A spokeswoman for J Street, Jessica Rosenblum, said the trip was part of the organization’s overall effort to promote a two-state solution.

“Our hope is that this and future delegations will help to open up and deepen the conversation in Congress about American policy in the Middle East,” Rosenblum said.

In one meeting at a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, several settlers insisted that their small town, Shiloh, would remain part of Israel in a two-state solution. Some described a scenario in which Palestinians would be allowed to stay in their homes but not receive national or voting rights — which drew a sharp reply from the members of Congress.

“Some people would call that apartheid,” Speier said. — jta