81 House members touring Israel

A total of 81 members of the House of Representatives are touring Israel this month.

A trip of 26 Democrats that landed Aug. 8 in Israel is being paid for by the American Israel Education Foundation, the nonprofit educational affiliate of AIPAC. The foundation is similarly funding two separate trips by 55 Republican House members in the subsequent two weeks.

All groups will meet with top Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

The GOP delegation reportedly is

top-heavy with freshmen brought to office by the Tea Party sweep in the 2010 election. Pro-Israel groups have stepped up their outreach to such lawmakers, who favor heavy budget cuts, in a bid to maintain across-the-board support for the $3 billion Israel receives in annual defense assistance. — jta