Kathy Castor returns from a trip to Israel

A first-hand look at protests by Israelis against their government.

"It was fascinating," Castor told CL about the trip, led by senior Democrat Steny Hoyer, the second highest-ranking member of in the party's caucus.

"It's very intensive educational effort that gives us the opportunity to encourage the parties to find a peaceful way to reconcile their differences," she said. Castor said the parties do seem close in terms of being on the same page for a two-state solution, but she expressed the same concerns that most of the U.S. government seems to share: the Palestinians bringing to the United Nations a resolution that would laterally declare statehood for the Palestinians.

"This would abrogate the agreements between the Palestinians Authority and Israel," Castor continued, "where everyone is encouraging them to stay with the previous agreements, which say you have to have bilateral agreements and solutions."

Congresswoman Castor and her colleagues also bore witness to a development this summer in Israel that has little to do with Palestinian unrest - the protests in Jerusalem to complain about housing costs that have now become wider in scope. Last week in Tel Aviv, more than 300,000 people marched in dissent against the Israel government, one of the country's largest demonstrations ever.

"I saw some of the tent cities where some of the young people are protesting privatization gone too far and the housing, and it rang very familiar to some of the things we're going through," the Congresswoman said, alluding to some of the cuts in social programs that are just beginning to be realized now due to the debt ceiling agreement reached earlier this month.

Castor's take on that debate, which some call a debacle (manifesting itself in record low approval numbers for Congress), is similar to John Kerry's statement last week that the S&P downgrade on the country's AAA credit rating is attributable to the Tea Party. "That's not reasonable," she said of the demands made by members of that group during the recent discussions.

A Republican delegation of members of Congress led by Eric Cantor is taking place this week in Israel.

Although there is some buzz in Tampa Bay about which Republican might be running against her next year, Tampa area Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor is busy working at her job this August, and that includes a trip to Israel that she participated in last week with a delegation of 26 US Democratic congressmen. The tour of Israel and the Palestinian Authority was sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, a charitable organization affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Castor met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Shimon Peres last Wednesday, and then traveled to Ramallah on Thursday to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.


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