Brian Mast

Mast heads back to Israel, minus the baggage

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast will return to Israel, this time as part of a Congressional delegation scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to an announcement release by the Palm City Republican today.

The itinerary for the trip, sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, lays out what is expected to be a deep dive into the current conditions in Israel and the rest of the Middle east.

But while it might be intellectually taxing, the tour should be a lot less taxing, physically, than the some of Mast’s previous time spent in the region

Mast, a U.S. Army Ranger veteran wounded in Afghanistan who serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, spent a month in early 2015 volunteering with the Israel Defense Forces at Tel Hashomer outside Tel Aviv. While there, Mast spent time packing medical kits and moving heavy loads of supplies.

“Our countries share the common ideals of freedom, democracy and mutual respect for all people,” Mast said in Thursday’s press release. “This trip is a great opportunity to hear directly from Israeli government and military leaders about how our two nations can work together to further advance these values.”

In addition to a powwow with Bibi, the agenda includes tours of historic sites, military bases and meetings with former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Dr. Michael Oren and United States Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, as well as Israeli military leaders, professors and entrepreneurs.

Mast’s Middle East summer travel comes as U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat, prepares for a similar journey, also organized by the American Israel Education Foundation. Crist is among 19 other Democrats on the trip, led by House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, which includes meeting with Netanyahu, Friedman and a visit to the West Bank to meet with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.

As the Republican governor of Florida in 2007, slipped a handwritten note into the Western Wall in Jerusalem, asking that the state be spared from storms.

Crist continued that prayerful tradition for nine years.

By Jim Turner.