U.S. Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, is touring Israel and meeting with Israeli leaders as part of his Mideast tour that has taken him to Iraq and Jordan. VOA's Jim Teeple reports from Jerusalem, McCain, who will also visit France and Great Britain, says he is committed to the Mideast peace process.
John McCain received a warm welcome in Israel. Many Israelis support his tough stand against Iran's nuclear-enrichment program, and he has a long record in the U.S. Congress of support for the state of Israel.
McCain, who is all but certain to be the Republican Party's candidate for the presidency this year, met with Israel's prime minister, foreign minister and defense minister who gave him a personal tour of the southern Israeli city of Sderot, which has been battered by rockets fired by Palestinian militants from the nearby Gaza Strip.
McCain strongly criticized Hamas militants who control Gaza, saying they are dedicated to destroying everything Israel and the West believe in. He says his talks with Israeli leaders focused on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and on the threat to Israel from Hamas and Hezbollah.
"The state of negotiations, particularly the continued Hezbollah presence in southern Lebanon, Hamas etc. So we look forward to discussing these issues, and we look forward to affirming as literally every visitor to this country has, our deep and abiding relationship and commitment to the state of Israel," said McCain.
The Arizona Senator was accompanied by his close Senate colleagues, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. The three senators say their trip was for fact-finding, but their visit to Israel will likely help John McCain with Jewish voters in the United States, and with Christian evangelicals, many of whom are strong supporters of Israel.
While he met with Israel's leaders, Senator McCain did not travel to the West Bank to meet with moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, saying instead he and Mr. Abbas spoke by telephone. McCain said he told Mr. Abbas he strongly supports his efforts to reach a peace agreement with Israel, saying if elected President he will make such an agreement a top priority of his administration.