House reps pledge to support pro-Israel Nevadans

Over a luncheon of kosher deli sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies this week, three Nevada federal lawmakers pledged support for the issues championed by pro-Israel constituents.

Rep. Shelley Berkley recalled she used to be the only Nevadan to come to Washington for the annual meeting of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

By contrast, at the Tuesday luncheon in the U.S. Capitol, she spoke to roughly 60 Nevadans who attended this year's gathering, which featured speeches by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"The fact that you schlep makes a big difference," said Berkley, a Democrat who prizes her seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee where her plate includes issues involving the U.S. relationship with Israel.

Berkley provided the entry for Nevada Reps. Dina Titus and Dean Heller to tell the visitors of their support for pending legislation that calls for sanctions against Iran, and for Israeli housing settlements.

The latter issue provided some spark to this year's AIPAC meeting, which came just days after the Obama administration confronted Israel over the approval of a settlement of new homes in east Jerusalem, an area of dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.

The Nevada lawmakers said they had signed onto a letter initiated by Reps. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Eric Cantor, R-Va., calling for any problems between the longtime allies to be settled "quietly"

Titus, a Democrat, told of her trip to Israel last summer that was funded by an AIPAC-affiliated foundation. She said she was struck when she toured housing settlements outside Jerusalem.

"Settlement is a bad term. When I think of a settlement, I think of something remote, like a frontier. Those were not settlements, those were suburbs," she said, likening them to the Las Vegas suburbs she represents.

"Anything that comes up about Israel, you can count on me to be supportive, because we are friends, we are family," Titus said.

Heller, a Republican, said with Berkley's activism, "For some reason, Israel has become a Nevada issue."

"I am not big on foreign aid but when it comes to Israel I am 100 percent in foreign aid behind Israel," Heller said. "And if you want to build 1,600 units in east Jerusalem, I am okay with that too."